The Daily Record on Common Core and PARCC: "Get a Horse"

Yesterday The Daily Record published an editorial that slams both the Common Core State Standards and the tests aligned with the Common Core called PARCC. The editorial is so riddled with errors of fact and logic that it requires a response.

The piece begins with an encomium to New Jersey’s stellar graduation rate (88.6%), which is due, in part, to N.J.’s requirement that high school graduates pass a standardized test called the High School Proficiency Assessment. The HSPA was once described by former Gov. Jon Corzine’s Education Commissioner Lucille Davy as a “middle school-level test.” The Editorial Board warns, "don’t expect a repeat [of those high graduation rates] anytime soon” because N.J. is switching to the more rigorous PARCC assessment It’s likely that graduation rates in N.J. will drop because the PARCC will require high school proficiency, not middle school proficiency.

And here’s where the editorial goes askew, both logically and factually. The graduation rate will drop, say the writers, not because of “changes in student achievement,” but because of the introduction “for the first time” of the PARCC. And the PARCC results will be meaningless because, well, we haven’t used it before and don’t have baselines so “the tests themselves” will “prove to be unfair assessments of students’ abilities.”

In fact, the editorial continues, this whole enterprise – raising expectations for students (Common Core) and providing an appropriate accountability instrument (PARCC) – is a scheme by the Christie Administration that rests on the benefits of “bashing teachers and laying the groundwork to begin replacing a supposedly failing public education system with a more privatized approach that conservatives support.”

Whoa, Nellie! Let’s unpack this a bit. Last year N.J. piloted the PARCC. There were a few glitches but teachers and administrators agreed that the implementation was smooth. From, yes, The Record: “A recent pilot of a new state student assessment platform has district officials feeling well prepared for its full implementation next year.”

This year students will take the PARCC.  It’s true that we don’t have “meaningful comparisons to previous scores" because the PARCC is new. We also didn’t have “meaningful comparisons” when, say, we shifted from stagecoaches to horseless carriages, or when Robert Jarvick invented the  artificial heart. Change is challenging.

And what about The Record's allegation that all this modern stuff – higher expectations for students and aligned assessments -- is a canard by the Christie Administration to privatize schools?

The Common Core State Standards were adopted in N.J. in 2010, and implementation was successful. It's likely that the first year of PARCC will be bumpy -- that change thing again -- but N.J. has a long history of effectively improving standards and assessments. Here’s a state history on the various tweaks and changes to both over the last forty years.  This switch to Common Core and newly-aligned tests is another adaptation that more accurately reflects expectations for college and the workplace.

Any reader would conclude that The Daily Record Editorial Board advocates continued use of a widely-maligned high school assessment in order to maintain high graduation rates, and that those who believe that students will benefit from higher expectations have fallen under the spell of the evil Christie-ites intent on destroying public education. I don't really think this reflects The Record Editorial Board's philosophy; the paper has a long history of good education reporting. So let's just hope the Board had a bad day.

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