Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers 

America has been concerned with its global standing for many years.  In this particular case, the academic performance of the country’s youth is under the microscope.  The government has spent much time and energy assessing the gap between America’s youths and students across the globe.  According to a Harvard study recently published, “gains within the United States have been middling, not stellar.  Nor is U.S. progress sufficiently rapid to allow it to catch up with the leaders of the industrialized world” (Hanushek, E.A., Peterson P.E., & Woessmann L., 2012).  An issue that may speak to more American citizens is the fact that students from many states are also found to not be receiving the same quality of instruction across the board.  In an attempt to close this international - and national - achievement gap, the government is attempting to redirect the curriculum and focus on Common Core Standards.  And as better standards require better assessments, the PARCC is being introduced.  
State leaders in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers share one fundamental goal: building their collective capacity to dramatically increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workplace. PARCC’s goal is to provide guidance and support that will help teachers bring the Common Core State Standards to life in their classrooms. This ‘next-generation’ assessment system will provide students, educators, policymakers, and the public with the tools needed to identify whether students are on track for postsecondary success.  These assessments will be implemented for the first time during the 2014-15 school year. As with any new educational policy, it is imperative that all sides of the issue are examined.  
Benefits of this new assessment system include:
  • Progress tracking
  • Students will know if they are on track to graduate and ready for college/careers
  • Making students more globally competitive
  • Teachers will have regular results available to guide learning and instruction
  • Parents will receive timely information about their child’s progress
  • Accountability of teachers, schools, districts, and states
  • Ensuring the Common Core is being followed
  • It is a summative and formative assessment

Drawbacks of this new assessment include:
  • Follows the ‘one size fits all testing mania’ 
  • Concern if the standards are developmentally appropriate
  • Expense: designing new tests, administration of tests, and scoring will be costly
  • Necessary technology may not be available to all districts evenly
  • Top down policy: ETS is designing and selling the tests and scoring products
  • Testing is not teaching - teachers may have to spend even more time on testing subjects and procedures, which impedes instruction of other subjects (ie - the arts)
  • Focuses on “rigid” subjects - doesn’t allow the proper time for students to engage in higher order learning but continues to stress the importance of rote memorization for test purposes

While it seems that policy makers are intent to keep this method of assessing the quality of education, the importance now placed on standardized test scores should be cause for concern.  
Previously, such tests were considered an additional instrument in a child’s education. The current role of such tests have mutated and are now utilized to assess progress - reducing the definition of success in today’s classroom to numbers.  I believe testing may prove beneficial under certain circumstances, but only if they are utilized and analyzed in the appropriate way.  As a future school psychologist who will inevitably use standardized tests on a daily basis, I can only hope that these new forms of progress monitoring will begin to move America’s educational system towards a top contender in the international academic arena.  

Hanushek, E.A., Peterson, P.E., & Woessmann, L. (2012). Achievement growth: International and U.S. State trends in student performance. Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance & Education Next.  Harvard Kennedy School.  

Vartanian, A. (2013). Motivation and the SAT: What factors help determine college success past standardized testing. Rowan University. 

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