A whole new test: Freshmen take a brand new standardized test creating a whole new world of state testing

By Olivia Holland, Editor-in-Chief and Taylor Rinehart, Staff Writer — There is a lot to worry about during one’s freshman year: finding your place within the school, making new friends, acquiring study habits, adjusting to the congested intersection that is the bridge, amongst other things. What is new for the ninth grade students this year, however, that has not affected students in previous years is the significant amount of testing they must take.

The administration of recent PARCC tests, which stands for Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers, has caused much controversy for parents, educators, representatives and students alike in the state of Ohio, as well as the 12 other states participating in the nation.

What is PARCC?

PARCC testing is aimed to review students’ college and career readiness by testing their skills in the areas of mathematics and language arts. Current freshmen will be tested from now until their junior year of high school with the computer and paper-based test, which replaces the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) altogether. This year, the ninth grade class was tested from Feb. 24- March 13, alternating between A days and B days depending on the community that they were in.

“The test covers a variety of different areas and topics such as identifying and using different literary terms, reading and understanding passages and questions given to you, and your ability to type your own responses rather than choosing from a select group of options,” freshman Taylor Brightman said.

Students all across Ohio were also given the option this year to opt out of PARCC testing. By doing so, it would not have any effect on state funding given to school districts. However, opting a child out of testing may hurt teachers in that what would have gone towards their students’ data for their SLO’s will be absent.

“I have considered opting Taylor out of the PARCC testing because I do not feel one test accurately portrays her level of intelligence, work ethic, or creativity,” Taylor’s dad Marc Brightman said. “I did not opt Taylor out of the PARCC testing because I know that her teachers’ evaluations are based partially on her scores, and if Taylor opts out, her teachers’ evaluations are negatively affected.”

Community Reaction

According to PARCC, the new tests will better achieve the standards set by Common Core State Standards, which Ohio adopted in 2010. Though the PARCC website claims to benefit teachers because they will “receive more timely and useful data to help inform instruction,” the testing results will not become available until the December after the Spring session of testing. The tests also take away a large portion of class instructional time.

“Students have Performance Based Assessments in language arts, math and science at various grade levels,” Marc said. “They also have End of Year Assessments in language arts and math. That is 10 days, two weeks, of instruction that they are losing. This is just one reason to support that students are excessively tested.”

Not only do students have the PARCC testing to worry about, but also regular scheduled assessments.

“Our freshmen are testing, in addition to our planned curriculum. In the midst of PARCC they are also quizzing and testing for their normal classes. A student might take an English PARCC test all morning and then spend an hour on an Algebra test that same afternoon,” freshman English teacher, Angela Beshore said.

The PARCC testing takes up to several weeks to complete, and in this time teachers have lost time to teach the expected curriculum, more time than the OGTs consumed.

“There are many topics on the PARCC tests that are covered by our curriculum, so in some cases we can kill two birds with one stone, but the amount of minutes testing is a lot more than what the OGT required,” Beshore said.

Teachers have taken the opportunity to intertwine the mandatory curriculum required by the state of Ohio and topics that can appear on the PARCC tests, ultimately saving time lost by the extra testing. This also provides students with the ability to review topics and questions that could be asked on the PARCC test.

“To prepare us for the PARCC tests, our teachers showed us different styles of questions that the test could ask us. Our teachers helped us review all information that we should’ve already known, and taught us anything else that might have been asked on the test,” Taylor said.

Students and teacher are not only worried about losing class time, but also the rigor and difficulty of the tests and how they portray the abilities of the student. For example, the English test consists of sections expecting students to analyze literature and another section in which students have to perform a narrative writing task.

“I do not feel that PARCC testing accurately portrays students’ capabilities. A blanket test does not show what a student’s passions are, how they express themselves, and what kind of citizens they are becoming,” Mark said.

This concern has also been made clear by state representatives, specifically Ohio State Rep. Kent Smith, who serves on the Ohio Education Committee.

“The goal should not be to punish students, teachers, principals, school systems or communities that have children who are not passing the test. These children are all Ohio’s kids. These students are this economy’s future workforce.”

There is little information in showing the effectiveness that PARCC testing is beneficial in showing student growth.

“Now the legislature is considering getting rid of the PARCC tests without having a ‘new’ option to replace PARCC,” Smith said.

The new PARCC testing replaces OGT and a point system was set up. The scores from the PARCC tests translate into a score of one, which is limited, to five, advanced. Each student must accumulate a minimum of 18 points to be eligible to graduate. As the new tests are being implemented, parents try to help their children and stress the importance of the tests.

“As a parent, I must try my best to help my children prepare for the test by keeping their spirits positive and continue to stress to them the importance of always putting forth their best efforts, no matter what they encounter,” Marc said.

The PARCC testing has changed the momentum of state testing and has set a precedent for years to come.

[Updated Aug. 12, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]