Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bergen County Mom: I Might Have Encouraged My Daughter to take PARCC if I Knew Then What I Know Now

The Record reports today that “PARCC refusals were highest in some of the more affluent and high-achieving districts in Bergen County.” No problem, as long as you don’t care about students not privileged to live in what Wikipedia calls “one of the wealthiest counties in the United States” with some of the best public schools. Anyway, just about every Bergen County high school student takes SAT’s and ACT’s, which the New Jersey Department of Education allows as a substitute for PARCC as a graduation requirement until 2021.

But sometimes there is a problem. Cindy Dittfield of Hawthorne, mother of a high school student, told the Record that she opted her daughter out of PARCC.  But then she didn’t make the college and career-readiness scores on  the SAT’s and ACT’s. Instead, her daughter had to take  an exam for entrance to the military, one of the options provided for by the D.O.E.

Ms. Dittfield said “she might have encouraged her daughter to take the PARCC tests if she had known they would be important for graduation.”

By 2021, when N.J. students will be required to pass reading and Algebra I PARCC tests in order to graduate, they will have had full K-12 exposure to the more ambitious Common Core. Accordingly, PARCC scores will improve.  But during this transition between old course standards and college and career-ready tests that honestly measure student proficiency, students like Ms. Dittfield’s daughter may struggle.

This scenario may be rare in  Bergen Count but it's more  common in  poorer parts of New Jersey like Paterson.  Last month the Record reported that less than 10% of Paterson high school students "met expectations for their grade level" on PARCC exams. However, proficiency levels were better at elementary schools, where students have been exposed to higher expectations since entering school.

Paterson Board of Education President Christopher Irving, interviewed for today's article, cut to the chase:
 “My concern is kids doing well on the exam and kids knowing the information. There are many, many outs for kids to graduate. There will be ample opportunities for kids to exit school. My question is, are we preparing them to be successful?
It's not whether or not you like Common Core or the aligned PARCC tests.  It's not about the opt-out campaign. It's not about the tiny (and, at this point, irrelevant) percentage of student outcomes on standardized tests linked to teacher evaluations. It's not about stress or "over-testing." It's not about politics. 

As Board President Irving said, this is about preparing our children to be successful, whether they live in Paterson or Hawthorne. That's why we're all here, right?

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