Increased number of Required Curricular Tasks (RCTs) at Wilson

Riley Hawkinson

Within the last year, Wilson high school has seen the increased implementation of Required Curricular Tasks in the core content areas. As Wilson adjusts to the first year back since COVID with in-person learning, the staff has faced changes to the curriculum including an increase of RCTs.

 Required Curricular Tasks (RCT) are standardized “curricular embedded checks for mastery in the core content area,” according to DCPS. The tasks are given twice per term: at the beginning as a diagnostic and the end for growth measurement. RCTs are mandatory as they are assigned by the DCPS central office, along with being a part of each grade level’s curriculum.

Coming into the new school year, teachers had to incorporate two district mandated standardized tests with no direct explanation from the central office. 

“My working theory would be that there are concerns about learning loss from last year with the pandemic, so [DCPS] wants to have more ways to ensure or check that students’ learning and mastery is where [DCPS] expect it to be, and to gather more data,” English teacher Allison Conroy explained. 

Over distance learning, collecting credible data proved to be an issue, since there was no way to standardize the tests, prevent cheating, or adequately teach students information and material.

DCPS has decided to implement RCTs in response to distance learning and the insufficient collection of data in the past year. In order to combat this and to start receiving accurate data again, “[In response to COVID] Required Curricular Tasks (RCTs) have been identified for teachers as periodic measures of student progress for standards prioritized for student learning in that term,” according to the the DCPS Required Curricular Task Guidance.   

Some teachers agree that RCTs can be helpful in collecting data.

“There’s some people who really excelled [in my course] and there some people that really didn’t so the only way for us to really figure out accurately where people are, is to assess,” health teacher Tia Clemmons said.

Likewise,“I don’t think the [idea] of having common assessments that measure growth is a bad one,” Conroy said.”The premise of an RCT and having a common assessment done at grade level to collect information about how students are lining up with standards is [beneficial].”  Teachers agree that there needs to be a valid way to track student growth and receive data. However, teachers aren’t certain RCTs are the tool that’s working. 

The often time-consuming work of RCTs has recently become a burden for teachers, particularly with an accelerated schedule due to the 4×4. 

“I don’t think that all RCTs are always measuring what they are intended to,” Conroy said, and also mentioning, “Because I haven’t interacted with RCTs for all grades/subjects, I don’t know that all of them are the same as my experience.” •