PARCC testing may become the new form of standardized testing in the Holliston School District for grades three through eleven by the start of the 2015-2016 school year.
PARCC testing was introduced to the Holliston School Board in 2013 for consideration.
“We had a choice in June whether or not to administer MCAS or PARCC for this school year [2014-2015], and our school committee voted to stick with MCAS,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sarah Ahern.
Even though it has not been fully decided whether Holliston will completely switch to the PARCC test, “the state is going to make a decision a year from now as to whether or not we are going to permanently adopt PARCC, and replace MCAS with PARCC” said Dr. Ahern. If the state decides to switch to PARCC testing, then the Holliston Schools must oblige.
The high school level is not going to be taking the PARCC tests this year. There are a lot of issues that still need to be worked out, according to Dr. Ahern.
The PARCC tests cover English and Math. As for science,“there are national science standards, but my understanding is that we are not going to go towards a national science testing. We would stay with MCAS,” said Dr. Ahern.
Last year, the eighth graders in Robert Adams Middle School in Holliston took the PARCC test as a trial run. “It was tough because it came right after MCAS, so I will say that I felt badly that the kids were being so over tested at that point,” said eighth grade English teacher, Ms. Kasey Conahan.
When asked about how the results would be used in determining course placement for students, Ms. Conahan said that teachers are not able to see the results of the PARCC test from the trial run. “So all of the data that has been collected from that test” is never going to be shown to teachers.
“I can’t imagine it mattering,” said Ms. Conahan. In the past Holliston has not used state testing to determine placement for courses.
When asked the same question, Holliston High School math teacher and department head, Ms. Jenna Galster, said she had “No idea how it will affect students’ placement.” Since HHS students have not participated in the PARCC tests yet, there is not a lot of information.
When these tests are administered to students, they will be taking place throughout the school year. “There is a performance based component and an end of year component. The performance based component is designed to be given 75 percent of the way through instruction. The end of year component is designed to be given 90 percent of the way through instruction,” said Dr. Ahern.
The goal of these tests is to “help in developing more of an understanding” of what the students have learned in their courses said Ms. Galster.
The PARCC test will also help students with college placement. State colleges now use the Accuplacer test to determine what math course students will take. They “are going to accept the PARCC test” in lieu of the Accuplacer said Dr. Ahern.
A lot of concerns with the PARCC tests bring up the issue of fairness. “I have some concerns with respect to fairness with the amount of time the tests are designed to be taken in…I think having an opportunity to show what you know, and can do without the constraint of time, I think is something that is pretty valuable,” said Dr. Ahern.
Another worry is that the PARCC tests are computer based. “What I am struggling with is who is responsible for making sure all the students are proficient with the technology, in order to be comfortable with that form of test taking… technology can be a whole additional class that students can take,” said Ms. Conahan.
“In the first couple of years, I am being told that they will have paper based options,” said Dr. Ahern on the matter of having it be a computer based test.
As the state considers moving to PARCC testing, “I just worry that education has become so focused on standardized testing that you lose sight of looking at each kid, helping each kid identify his or her strengths, his or her passions, and finding a place for each individual in our community or society,” said Ms. Conahan.