This editorial appeared in the Lake Charles American Press today:
To PARCC Or Move On?
Not all tests are bad for you or your children. Vision tests can help doctors discover if your children need eye glasses. Requiring driving tests help everyone not get run over by people who didn’t take vision tests.
In education there are two very different types of testing that can be loosely classified as summative and formative. Summative tests, like PARCC and the ACT, determine what a person knows at a certain point in time (or has been coached into storing in short term memory). They are not intended to be used as a tool for future learning. Formative testing is used to guide future learning. Formative tests are designed to provide immediate feedback that can be used to help teachers identify knowledge gaps and misunderstandings and to drive future individualized learning plans for their students.
Louisiana’s premier summative test iscalled PARCC by the State Superintendent John White. The idea behind giving the PARCC exam to Louisiana children is not to help children learn; the assessment scores don’t get released until 6 or 7 months of learning later. These assessments are designed to inform the state which schools are delivering the highest scores on these tests, and which teachers seem to be having the greatest impact on these scores.
PARCC tests are very long. They are much more expensive than the previous LEAP and iLEAP tests Louisiana used previously. Test prep for them is often very excessive and detracts from real long-term learning. Louisiana does not even have a contract to provide the real PARCC test even if it wanted to.
What this means it that for this year Louisiana is planning to give a “mystery test” they identify as PARCC (for political reasons) that is not comparable to anything we have done previously. This is a test which will not be comparable to a test given in any other state and a test we are very unlikely to use in the future. For this year it is time to park plans for standardized testing. The parents I’ve spoken with want education to be about learning, not summative testing to evaluate a child’s teacher or school. Parents can register their objections to this type of testing (in lieu of teaching) by refusing to allow their children to participate, or “opting out.” It is time for a change. It is time to move on.