Asking the State to Do the Right Thing
By Phil Kauffman
The Board of Education has been concerned for some time about the transition to new state assessments and the impact the new exams will have on our students. One of our biggest areas of concern has been the high stakes nature of the new tests in high schools. This week, we sent a letter to Maryland State Superintendent Lillian Lowery and the Maryland State Board of Education President Charlene Dukes, asking them delay the graduation requirements for the new high school assessments. You can read the letter here.
I want to be clear—this Board supports the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests that are aligned to the CCSS. We believe the new standards will better prepare our students for the 21st century and the new state assessments will give us better data we can use to measure its progress and improve teaching and learning.
But like so many teachers, administrators, and parents, we are concerned about the implementation. The CCSS represents a significant change in education and is requiring us to make sweeping changes to our curriculum and classroom instruction. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has done well with implementation, but there are still concerns and it takes time for teachers to feel comfortable with the new material.
The PARCC assessments will be very different from previous state assessments. The new tests will be given online and will ask students to demonstrate their content knowledge in a variety of ways. There will also be new scoring levels—called cut scores—that have to be set and appropriately adjusted. We expect the PARCC assessments to be more rigorous, which is good, but we won’t know for at least a couple of years how reliably these tests are measuring student achievement. In the letter, I raised a number of questions that need to be answered and asked Dr. Lowery and Dr. Dukes to start a broad conversation on the appropriate use of the PARCC test data during a period of transition.
We are not alone in these concerns. The state of Massachusetts has already deferred using the PARCC assessment as a graduation requirements and other states giving new Common Core-aligned tests are discussing similar delays.
With so many questions unanswered and so much at stake, we believe the state should do the same. Let’s do what is right for our students and delay the graduation requirement tied to the new PARCC assessments.