Thursday, March 7, 2013

Common Core PARCC Tests = 8-10 of Testing

Districts across the nation have been rising up against the ever increasing standardized testing. In order to comply with Florida Senate Bill 736, the so-called "merit pay" law, districts have to create tests to cover the courses that state assessments do not cover. This includes as 2,000 courses. It is still unknown if students will be held accountable for their results such as including the test results in their final grades or if these tests will only be used as a means to measure the quality of instruction. On top of this, districts are scrambling to implement the Common Core State Standards and it's accompanying test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College &  Careers Exam, otherwise known as PARCC. 

As Governor Rick Scott goes around the state appearing to be sympathetic to those who want to decrease the amount of testing, we are now finding that the Common Core tests that reformers tout as one of the keys to solving the education crisis will include 8 - 10 hours of testing. Furthermore, this is a digital exam, which means that schools will have to scramble to outfit their schools with enough computers to administer the tests. Here is a story from the Tampa Bay Times describing the demands of the Common Core tests. 

As Florida and other states debate their readiness for the Common Core State Standards, the group designing the tests that would replace the FCAT has announced that its tests will last 8-10 hours and schools will need up to 20 days to administer them.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, this week released documents telling states about what they'll need to give the tests. The bottom line is that, as the new tests aim to measure students' preparation in new and more subtle ways than the current set of state assessments -- including the measuring of writing abilities at every grade level -- they'll require more time in addition to more computers.
The group's Frequently Asked Questions states that third graders will need about 8 hours to take the math and reading/language arts tests, while the amount rises to 9 hours for grades four and five, and around 9-1/2 hours for middle and high school students. School districts will have two windows of up to four weeks to give the two sets of tests, with PARCC suggesting states may reduce that number. 
As for computers, here's PARCC's "rule of thumb" -- "At a minimum, schools with up to three grades tested should plan on having at least one computer device for every two students in its largest tested grade. A school that has six tested grades, such as a K-8 school, should plan on having one device per student in its largest tested grade. PARCC recommends that schools go a bit further if they are able."
Using the PARCC guidance, Florida officials are indicating that testing would increase by a net eight days (emphasis mine)
Schools go into total shutdown during the FCAT. Before and after school activities are limited or cancelled altogether. Students in elementary schools can't use the playgrounds. Volunteers, organizations, and vendors who do work in the schools cannot come on campus. Elective teachers will have shortened classes or may not even see their students at all during testing. Essentially, students lose valuable instructional time in all courses. 

This is how the world of testing works. While those in government tell public schools they need to act like the private sector, most private schools will not be participating in such activities. 

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