A N.J. Education Professor Reflects on Parent and Teacher Anxiety about PARCC Tests

Audrey Fisch, an English professor and coordinator of Secondary English Education at New Jersey City University, attended the anti-PARCC meeting in Jersey City on Monday and reflects in today's Star-Ledger on parent and teacher concerns about the new test that will debut in March. The high school PARCC tests replace our low-bar and much-maligned High School Proficiency Assessment, where, she writes, it was “ possible to answer many of the multiple-choice questions without reading the passage” and “a raw score of approximately 50 percent was usually good enough to pass.”

This is what we want our kids to aspire to? These are the instructional expectations we want to instill in our teachers, parents, and schools?

Here’s Dr. Fisch:
Recently, I attended a meeting for parents at my local high school about the new regimen of standardized testing. While the administrators wanted to focus exclusively on how testing would affect individual students and how the district would administer the exam, what struck me was the general anxiety and lack of understanding about the Common Core, the new (and old) assessments, and the current climate of testing… 
The new PARCC language arts exams are different. The multiple-choice questions are more text-dependent. Pairs of questions ask students to select not just the main idea or the meaning of a word or phrase but to find evidence in the text for their answers. The tasks are more aligned with college and career skills, asking students to engage with a wider range of texts - Supreme Court decisions, historical documents, discussions of science, and even videos. Students will also be asked to compare and contrast texts and ideas. 
Will students struggle with PARCC? Undoubtedly. That's always the case with a new assessment. Will many students fail? That depends on where PARCC sets the passing score, which has yet to be determined. 
So, parents, don't freak out about PARCC. Your child's score won't matter much to his or her immediate future. But figuring out whether all students are learning what they need to matters a great deal. 
Parents should be much more worried about the many students in our nation who aren't learning to read, write, and think well. 
That's the larger story I wish more parents had heard in the auditorium.