Throughout the school year, many parents have found it difficult to facilitate the virtual learning experience for their children, due mostly to their demanding work schedules and, in some cases, persistent gaps in technological and internet access.
These factors have given greater impetus to parents, teachers and elected officials to support a movement centered on the cancellation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a high-stake annual test that’s more commonly known as the PARCC.
“There’s no certainty that the PARCC can be done equitably. There are tests that are less cumbersome and time-consuming to actually administer,” said at large State Board of Education (SBOE) Representative Jacque Patterson.
At a recent SBOE meeting, parents and teachers testified before Patterson and his colleagues in support of canceling the PARCC. This virtual gathering on Feb. 18 took place amid meetings Patterson conducted with parents about the virtual learning experience, during which he recounted gathering similar perspectives.
In suggesting that at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) cancel the PARCC, Patterson, father of two D.C. students, mentioned that schools have gathered student data from other assessments that have been administered this academic year, including the NWEA Map Growth Test.
“These tests give the kind of results you need,” Patterson told The Informer.
“ I’m not against testing, I’m against the PARCC itself. It’s one of the most antiquated exams, and the fact that we still want to do it during an unprecedented school year is unconscionable.”
Parents Stand Against PARCC
OSSE hasn’t responded to The Informer’s inquiries about whether it would cancel PARCC testing this spring.
As of Feb. 22, a petition to cancel PARCC, circulated by the Ward 6 Public Schools Parents Organization, has amassed more than 1,100 signatures. If OSSE acquiesces to these demands, the District officials would emulate educators in New York, New Jersey and Michigan who have indicated they may ask the federal Department of Education for a testing waiver.
At the start of the academic year, OSSE removed PARCC scores as a metric on IMPACT evaluations for D.C. Public School teachers, cancelled the science portion of PARCC and postponed the STAR rating system, an apparatus that determined the quality of a District-based school.
There has been little indication however, that PARCC would meet the same fate.
PARCC, annually administered to District students between the third and eighth grades and those taking 9th and 10th grade English and math courses, measures students’ preparedness for college and career opportunities on a five-point scale.
Recent PARCC Results Show Improvement for District Students
Four out of five points demonstrates college readiness.
Results for the 2019 PARCC exam, when District students last 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 designated 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.
In its letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), interim State Superintendent Shana Young, Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), the Ward 6 Public Schools Parents Organization cited the greater need for social and emotional learning during the pandemic.
These points echoed what teachers and parents who testified before SBOE earlier this month mentioned as they described the struggle to overcome instructional changes and students’ mental health challenges.
Pressure Mounts for Students and Teachers
The Informer was unable to establish contact with the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization.
An ongoing pandemic notwithstanding, instructional strategies at District public and public charter schools often focus on preparing students for the PARCC, an assessment that, in part, determines a school’s standing.
In the past, teachers said they’ve faced the burden of ensuring that students pass the PARCC with flying colors, regardless of circumstances out of their control.
For Ward 8 educator Chantal Fuller, current conditions won’t allow for testing data that accurately reflect what students learned, and the degree to which teachers and school administrators fulfilled their obligations.
She too pointed to the stress of the pandemic, and the inconsistency in instruction often caused by the demands of home and unpredictable technological access.
“It will give students a lot of anxiety, just with the normal tests we do throughout the year,” said Fuller, a special education teacher at Excel Academy in Southeast.
We’re assuming that they have optimal testing conditions when this hasn’t been the case,” Fuller continued.
“The assessment data has been skewed and I’m wondering how reliable we think the PARCC data will be. We have to wait until there’s a more controlled environment. There are too many external variables working against teachers and students.”