by Jennifer Mandelblatt
As the years of the High School Proficiency Assessment come to an end, both the federal and state Departments of Education prepare to implement the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers to begin in 2014-2015.
The problem with the HSPA is that there is a gap between required courses, what is being taught in the classroom and the material on the test. This new program creates an opportunity to maintain standards while improving academic achievement of both individual students and schools as a whole.
To aid the growth, the U.S Department of Education gave PARCC an $186 million grant as part of the federal Race to the Top assessment program, according to parcconline.org.
In February 2012, President Barack Obama released the first nine states, including New Jersey, from the No Child Left Behind requirements implemented during the Bush administration. According to nj.gov, Governor Chris Christie’s administration applied for the exemption as part of a broad educational reform effort.
According to whitehouse.gov, Obama said: “The goals of No Child Left Behind were the right ones… But we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t force teachers to teach to the test or encourage schools to lower their standards to avoid being labeled as failure.”
According to the Final Report of the New Jersey Department of Education College and Career Readiness Task Force, in New Jersey “82% of ninth graders eventually graduate from high school within four years (many take longer than four years to graduate); 58% enroll in college in the succeeding fall term; 41% are still enrolled in their sophomore year of college; but only 22% will earn a college degree.”
These statistics do not necessarily describe the future of WHS students, but they highlight the statewide problem that significance of the diploma and the education behind it has been undermined by a need to graduate students in order to comply with outdated requirements.
The PARCC Assessment has an end-of-course test for academic subjects as well as proposed intervals to measure the progress of the students. This format can be likened to the AP exam and preparation. Take, for example, the AP United States History course. Throughout the year students sit for multiple DBQs, FRQs and multiple choice tests. Though perhaps tedious, these frequent assessments allow students to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses of the units within the over 400-year span, and meet with teachers accordingly.
So, when time comes to sit for the exam in May, there is no discrepancy between the key knowledge of our nation’s history, necessary writing skills, the course syllabus and the AP exam.
This new assessment has the capability of moving New Jersey into a new age of standardized testing and of determining college and career readiness of students. However, that capability can only turn to reality if the state legislature and governor make a commitment to ensuring that schools across the state have the resources and teachers necessary to relate classroom to exam.
Success should not be calculated by mere statistics. Students deserve to graduate with confidence in themselves and their abilities. Implemented correctly, the PARCC assessment can be the tool for such change.
The reporter’s thoughts on the subject also appear in an article NJ Spotlight published in October.