This is a different kind of post; it deals not with math per se, but rather with the recent surge in standardized testing nationwide and with the controversy surrounding it.
As a tutor I work with a wide range of students, and lately I’ve noticed how much my high school students are talking about the standardized testing at their schools.
In my home state of New Mexico, many students grew so concerned about the new PARCC standardized tests that they walked out of school and protested, with placards and chants, the “whole nine yards.” I drove down to meet these students at the state capitol building, where the students were voicing their concerns.
Asked about the testing, the students told me that they’ve been told that if they don’t pass the PARCC, they’ll never get their diploma. They said they were told that directly by some of their teachers and counselors. (In the local newspaper this issue is debated, and it seems that there’s no clear consensus as to the implications of not passing the PARCC.)
As a math tutor I’m aware of the math content that is in my students’ curriculum, and I’ve noticed that some of the PARCC exam’s math problems are based on concepts that are not in students’ curriculum. For example, the PARCC’s math section has many problems on statistics, and my students have not been taught statistics through their curriculum.
My concern is that this exam is testing students on topics that are beyond their curriculum, and that the consequences of their failing might be not graduating.
The students told me that if instead of the PARCC they were given the SBA, the test that they’ve taken for many years now, they would not even consider protesting. They said their concern is that the district changed the test they would take rather abruptly from the SBA to the PARCC without giving teachers adequate time to teach students the PARCS’s content, which is largely aligned with Common Core State Standards for Math. Several teachers in Santa Fe have echoed this concern in the local media.
On the other hand, other students don’t seem concerned about the tests. They take it all in stride. And of course, local district officials say that the tests help establish a basis for evaluating both the progress of individual students, and the success of individual schools and districts. They argue that there needs to be a standardized “baseline” so that people and communities can make “apples-to-apples” comparisons of students, schools and districts.
I’m writing this post in hopes of starting a dialog to find out how people around the country feel about the many standardized tests dotting the educational landscape these days. In your opinion, are the tests a good thing, a bad thing? What are your thoughts and feelings on this topic? Please share. It would be great if this blog could be a forum for discussion of this issue.