District Readies For New PARCC Test Amid Questions Over Opting Out

by | Jan 20, 2015

East Greenwich will not require that students take the new PARCC standardized test but officials expressed concern Tuesday over the potential “hit” East Greenwich High School could take if too many students opted out.

“You could theoretically have a ‘commended’ school that moves into ‘warning’ status simply because a certain percentage of its students opted out,” said School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark at the School Committee meeting Tuesday night at Cole. She was referring to state Department of Education school ratings.

PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a test adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia that was designed to be taken on computer but will mix computer and paper at least initially, as districts including East Greenwich put in place the requisite number of computers. It replaces the NECAP tests and students at every grade level will take them during the second semester this year.

Confusion arose last week when state education officials said while they expect students to take the PARCC, they are not required by law to do so. At the same time, however, they said there was no formal “opt-out” provision. One official referred to the taking of standardized tests as part of a social contract between families and schools, according to the Providence Journal.

“RIDE’s clarification was, yes, there’s local autonomy,” said Mark, “but for a local school district to move ahead on [requiring students to take the test], in advance of any kind of statewide requirement, would not be something that I would think most school districts would want to do.”

“My recommendation is to participate in the first go of the test, to do our absolute best, as I know we will,” said EG Supt. Victor Mercurio. “And then see where the chips fall, as it relates to the test. And then start to make some thoughtful decisions about [how to use the test.]”

Some students participated in the pilot PARCC last year. Results were not returned to East Greenwich, but were instead used to inform the test developers.

“Some of it went very well, some of it was a bit of a frustration,” said Mercurio. “It will not be completely new to the students.”

School Committeeman David Osborne spoke in defense of the test, difficulty and all.

“Now we have, in theory, a set of assessments that are actually aligned to the standards that we’re trying to implement in our schools,” he said. “So, when you heard complaints in the past of teachers saying, ‘Oh, we have to stop what we’re doing to prepare kids and basically test them to the test,’ now we actually have a test that we want to teach to, because we’re actually testing whether we are doing as good a job as we hope teaching high standards.”

Osborne, an education consultant, said he’s seen other districts across the country go through transitions like the one East Greenwich is about to go through with PARCC.

“The first couple of years will be really, really difficult. I’ll tell you right now, our proficiency numbers are going to take a big hit. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You are testing much more rigorous curriculum, much more rigorous standards and our scores will go down. …. They will go down the first year, they will stay down probably the second year also. It’s year three where everybody starts to really click in. We want to ride this out. We will learn a ton over next two years, I guarantee you. It will inform instruction, but it will be bumpy along the way, but we shouldn’t lose heart.”

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January 21, 2015 8:54 am

I don’t understand why our proficiency numbers are going to take a big hit if we are world-class schools as our principals said.

Done the research
Done the research
January 21, 2015 1:44 pm

Haven’t we had enough threats?

Have we lost sight of what is best for the children out there who are really struggling and stressing due to the Common Core, Smart Balanced Testing, I Ready tests and PARCC assessments? What about the teachers out there who are too afraid to speak out. Has anyone really allowed them to give their real opinion on all of this? I think everyone can agree that the development and implementation of this entire process has been an epic fail for most.

So why all the threats, and do they really work?

In a past e-mail to the RIDE staff, Gist informed them she would “not hesitate to take action against any employee of RIDE who purposefully works to thwart RIDE policy.” This threatening email was a result of some RIDE staff attending, on their own time, a vigil for the teachers to be fired in Central Falls. As it turned out, Gist violated the law by restricting the free speech of her staff, and was cited by the State Labor Relations Board.

The Commissioner of Education didn’t stop there. In a letter last year, Gist threatened legal action against any school superintendents who permitted teachers to be assigned based on seniority. She threatening sanctions “up to and including the loss of certification,” along with the possibility of withholding state aid and legal action. Loss of certification? Can she really do that? Loss of certification would equal loss of ability to procure employment.

So, now, most recently, the threats have been extended to the parents of Rhode Island.

As one of her last acts before Gist packs up, she is threatening parents’ rights to opt their children out of the poorly written, age inappropriate, teacher hated, convoluted PARCC testing.

Side note: She is also flip-flopping again on the date that PARCC testing will become part of the graduation requirements. Are we back to 2017, or is it still 2020? Also, Ms. Gist’s recent statements are quite inconsistent with recent statements made by RIDE staff members at various meetings across the state.

Most recently, in a memo regarding parents’ choices to opt out their children out of the PARCC testing, Gist said, “Students attending school during days of administration of state assessments, including make-up days, will participate in the assessment process.”

The commissioner was very clear: “A child will have the test put in front of them. Students will participate. ”

Does she mean to have children “sit and stare” if their parents tell them not to fill in the test? What type of position does this put teachers and children in? Not a good one, I can tell you that.

There will still be an allowance of a 5% opt out rate, so will Ms. Gist personally decide which kids will not have the test “put in front of him or her? ”

Even the “consequences” she outlined seem vague at best. Gist states, “School districts or schools can decide to use PARCC participation as one part of determining a student’s grade in a course.” Ok, so what course will it be? How much will it count? A letter grade? A test grade? A quiz grade? A homework assignment? I think parents and students deserve the details in order to make an informed decision. That is the fundamental difference between threats and rules. And there are always exceptions to the rules, especially when dealing with people.

It is no secret now that a few big corporations and a handful of “educational experts” (a good portion of whom have ties to the Pearson Company who produce the PARCC tests) wrote, implemented and profit from the CCSS and PARCC testing. (Another who stands to profit via his position in the McKinsey Company is Andy Mofitt, husband to Gina Raimondo.)

So, parents have a tough decision to make, but in my mind threats don’t work. I hope every child does well and that they know, in the scheme of things, it’s just one test. Some of us are not test takers, some of us are. Some of us find success in music, dance, or art. Others soar in science and technology. The bottom line, it’s not how smart you are, but how you are smart!

Interestingly, all of these threats are happening in RI when state after state are pulling out of all PARCC testing and cutting ties with the Common Core. Food for thought.

Is consideration for the children paramount? Is the data collection, the teacher evaluations, and the power to demand that each child take these tests more important than a parent’s choice as to what is best for his or her child?

January 22, 2015 9:26 am

WPRI Newsmakers 1/23/2014: Gina Raimondo

Ted Nesi: Do you support the graduation requirement tying passing the NECAP to getting your diploma?

Gina Raimondo: I support standards for graduation

Ted Nesi: How about that one?

Gina Raimondo: That, there’s many issues with that one and, I support…we’re moving to the Common Core with a PARCC assessment.

I think. Here’s what I think. Public education…I have two kids in public School so this is personal for me. The key to success and opportunity is teaching kids skills for the 21st century. We can’t lower the standards. We have to treat teachers like professionals and give them support and autonomy and we have to keep our standards high and let’s do this. Let’s pull everybody together to make our education system work so we can rise together.


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