EDUCATION

Student Performance Director: DOE Needs to Focus on PARCC Assessments

Every school in the state is adopting the Common Core — a set of national benchmarks students have to meet in math and language arts. PARCC tests will measure whether it succeeds. It had an easy rollout here four years ago, but this year it’s getting push-back from parents, teachers, education advocates and state officials. The main arguments are that it’s not better than what was in place before and it forces teachers to “teach to the test.” Mount Olive School District Director of Student Performance and former Chief Academic Officer for the State Department of Education Tracey Severns told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that the Department of Education needs to focus on the PARCC Assessments because there are many misperceptions about it.

The program is not a change in curriculum or new lesson plans. When asked why there is so much more resistance now to Common Core Standards than when Severns implemented them, Severns said that she thinks that there is a lot of misinformation swirling around the Common Core assessments. She said that she thinks that when the standards were first proposed and adopted in 2010, not much was heard about them, but over time, districts started to align their curriculum to the new standards while continuing to administer the same New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK).

She said that it was quiet, but then when PARCC came onto the landscape, she started to hear a little bit more concern about time spent on testing, the stakes associated with the testing, the level of difficulty and the new challenge of the tests being on computers. She said that she thinks that started to get people’s attention because students were going from pencil and paper to an online assessment.

Severns said that there are some school districts that do not have access to computers. She said that in some places, despite the fact that technology has become very common in everyday life, it hasn’t taken hold inside the schools and hasn’t become a regular part of teaching and learning.

According to Severns, the PARCC Assessment has about 14 states participating and together they are looking at the Common Core Standards to determine how to know whether students are achieving the outcomes and then designing a test that will provide evidence to see whether the students are truly on track to graduate career and college ready.

Severns said that she would advise the Department of Education to keep doing what officials are doing, which is getting the message out that the Common Core is about making sure that all students can read, write, speak and listen intelligently and that they can solve authentic problems and apply them in real-life settings. She said that debunking the myths is a big part of it. She said where she thinks the Department of Education needs to be focusing its attention on now is the PARCC Assessments because there are a lot of misperceptions that are swirling around that test which are prompting parents to think that it might be better for them to opt their child out of the test than have them participate. She said that she would think as a parent that she would want to know how her child is doing so that if they need extra help, that they can get that as early as possible and if they are ready for extra enrichment or a higher level of challenge, that through the assessment they can know that as well.