PARCC test postponed for the second year in a row

Hadley Carr

For the second year in the row, PARCC testing has been cancelled for DCPS Students.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) requested a one-year waiver to the annual testing requirements. “Given the unique circumstances DC is facing this year, we do not believe our summative assessments (PARCC) would yield the reliable and comparable data needed to inform targeting of resources and supports for students who need it the most,” the OSSE said.

The cancellation of PARCC came as a relief to teachers as 15 percent of teacher evaluations consist of PARCC test scores

“It’s more frustrating on my end when PARCC scores affect evaluations because…it’s no longer about my teaching and their growth, it’s about managing student’s motivation to do their best, ” Math teacher Patricia Milikin said. 

Prior to the pandemic, teachers would have to rush to teach all the concepts tested in PARCC. Milikin “found [herself] scrambling to get everything done before students took the test.” After the test, she would have to reteach the rushed topics. 

Taking into consideration the time crunch created by the 4×4 schedule, PARCC would have taken away four instructional periods. This year, the time teachers had to teach was compounded into a span of four months as opposed to eight. 

“[Teachers] would have to figure out a way to help students that took PARCC math classes first semester review topics,” Milikin adds.

Participation was a key concern when Wilson PARCC Coordinator Michael Gueltig was considering the plan for PARCC. The panorama survey had served as a prime example of low participation: only 80 percent of students completed the it survey. 

If PARCC was required this school year, it would have created great logistical challenges for both test coordinators and teachers. 

ELA Instructional Coach Michael Gueltig has been the Wilson PARCC coordinator for the past two years, the same years that DCPS has not participated in PARCC. After he was initially notified in January that Wilson students would be taking PARCC, he began laying the foundations to prepare for the test.

Gueltig planned to offer the test both virtually and in-person. Students attending class in-person would take the test at school, while students at home would take PARCC with their parents serving as their proctor. 

“It [wasn’t] an equal playing field,” Gueltig said. Students in-person would be able to test in a controlled environment with the support of teachers; while teachers cannot answer questions about the test, Gueltig adds that “verbalizing the question helps [students] think through [the question] to get to the next step.”

By contrast, students taking the 90-minute test at home would have faced an environment riddled by distractions. If students had taken PARCC, “whatever distraction they desired would have been there,” Gueltig said.

The logistical challenges compounded with the inequities of PARCC would have proved to be a great effort without “an accurate read for where [Wilson] students are this year,” Guelting said. 

“PARCC is not the best tool to gauge all students’ growth,” Milikin said. English Teacher Leroy Jenkins echoed this sentiment, “There should be some requirements placed on performing well on the PARCC or any assessment that measures academic performance of the overall student population.” 

Jenkins and Milikin agree that an alternative to PARCC should be introduced. Jenkins offered student-driven assessments such as portfolios or year-long research projects while Milikin suggested an end of year exam agreed upon by the district as well as teachers. 

Despite teacher opinion and PARCC’s past cancellations, DCPS freshmen and sophomores are expected to take PARCC again beginning next spring.