Junior Nic Fishman was pulled out of his DC History class on April 20 and told he would have to take the Geometry PARCC. Like several upperclassmen, he has never taken a Geometry class at Wilson. It was news to him that he would have to take the test on the same day he thought he was supposed to be taking his physics final.
This year, many upperclassmen were surprised to learn that they would be required to take the PARCC test along with the rest of the school. PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and according to their website is the product of “a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.” These tests are being taken in states that practice Common Core standards.
Testing is taking place during school hours, which means that upperclassmen are going to have to miss class in order to take a test on content that, in some cases, they learned years ago. The Wilson staff learned of this two weeks before spring break when they received a new list from DCPS of students who would be taking the PARCC test. This list included the students who were originally signed up for testing but had also added upperclassmen.
Fishman is not the only person who has been affected by testing. Junior Lindsay Harper, who is currently in Honors pre-calculus, also took the geometry PARCC. While Fishman had to sit in the testing room for about an hour and a half to answer 17 questions, Harper had to miss three days of her physics class. “I have suffered because I don’t understand the worksheets I am given,” she said, “because I wasn’t there when we learned it.”
Once Wilson staff noticed the changes in the number of students testing, Ashley Sobrinksi, Wilson’s testing coordinator, called the central office to explain that these upperclassmen are not currently enrolled in the classes they would be tested on. “We were told we still had to test those students,” Sobrinksi said. Wilson was denied permission to give upperclassmen a higher level math test, such as algebra II, which would have been the most advanced math course that PARCC currently has a test for. These responses forced Sobrinski to rearrange the testing schedule. She tried to work around students’ Advanced Placement class exams, most of which begin on May 2, and that made scheduling even more difficult.
As a result of the new testing demands, many upperclassmen have decided to opt out of PARCC. Because there is no official “opt-out” policy for standardized testing, the administration could only register the request with DCPS and students were told to ignore calls for their presence. Wilson is still accountable for all the scores of students who aren’t present at the tests, even if the administration and DCPS knows the student opted out.
Discontent about PARCC testing has not been contained to DC. Two weeks ago, dozens of Baltimore students walked out of PARCC testing to protest the standardized tests they believe disadvantage minority students. According to CBS Baltimore, the protest was led by the student group, Algebra First.
Although these new testing standards may seem like a hassle for both students and teachers, the testing provides important information to the school. “We get a lot of information from the test,” Sobrinski said. The test scores from all students can aid in judging how effective teachers are. There is no consequence for not completing the PARCC, but “it has a big impact on our school so we want all of our students to take the assessment seriously,” Sobrinski said. •
PHOTO BY WILL HAMLIN