To the relief of some parents and teachers, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) recently opted to cancel a highly-anticipated and polarizing assessment that students were scheduled to take within a matter of weeks.

In a letter to public school and public charter school officials, interim State Superintendent Shana Young said the decision to suspend the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers [PARCC] followed discussions about OSSE’s ability to equally distribute assessments, teacher and administrator bandwidth and the limited instructional time throughout the pandemic.

“We do believe in the power of statewide summative assessments and remain committed to understanding where students are,” Young said in a statement on Feb. 25.

“Therefore, we plan on requiring [schools] to submit information to OSSE about student progress based on school-level assessments and invest in city-wide research to understand the state of unfinished learning across the state.”

The official cancellation of the PARCC, along with Multistate Alternate Assessments, ACCESS for English Language Learners 2.0 and Alternate ACCESS, would require OSSE’s submission of a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education.

If successful, this change would follow those made earlier in the academic year, including the termination of the DC Science Assessment and the exclusion of the STAR Rating framework.

In the weeks leading up to OSSE’s decision, parents and teachers organized around the cancellation of the PARCC. By the morning of February 25, a petition demanding the cancellation of PARCC, circulated by the Ward 6 Public Schools Parents Organization, attracted more than 1,200 signatures from people across the city.

One week prior, parents and teachers spoke before the D.C. State Board of Education in support of this cause.

PARCC, annually administered to District students between the third and eighth grades and those taking 9th and 10th grade English and math courses, employs a five-point scale to measure the degree to which students are prepared for college and career opportunities.

Four out of five points demonstrates college readiness.

Results for the 2019 PARCC exam – the last time District students took the assessment – showed a citywide growth of 12.3 percent in English and 8.4 percent in math, with steady improvement among students with disabilities, nonwhite students and English-language learners.

City officials highlighted this milestone as the fourth consecutive year of growth.

Even so, there have been questions of whether the PARCC hinders the progress of students of color and those from low-income communities. Critics said the pandemic, and the manner in which the test would need to be conducted, could further place affected populations at a further disadvantage.

That’s why Alexandra Simbana, a member of the Ward 1 Education Council, extolled OSSE’s announcement, citing the opportunity to further amplify the voices of students, parents and teachers through other avenues.

“I’ve seen directly how much time and effort teachers are putting in during this unprecedented time of the pandemic,” said Simbana, the mother of a third grader who attends Cleveland Elementary School in Northwest.

“This choice of waiving PARCC honors the work that the teachers and students are putting in to keep their learning going under circumstances that no one has experienced in over a century. It’s the greatest opportunity to help learning continue and bridge any gaps for those who need it the most,” she said.

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Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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