15 Jun

What is the PARCC Test for?

PARCC, which stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, is a relatively new type of state exam that was initiated in 2010. The idea behind the introduction of PARCC standardized testing was to ensure that the education system of each state was complying with the guidelines dictated by the Common Core. In other words, the aim of PARCC testing is to ensure that each student who graduates, regardless of the state he or she is obtaining education from, graduates with a defined set of skill and knowledge that will enable them to join the professional world fully prepared. As the acronym suggests, PARCC testing checks whether a student is ready to pursue a career or enter college and if not, then what areas need more work and focus.

Common Core
To ensure consistency in the level and standard of education being provided in each state, the Common Core was introduced in 2010. The Common Core set guidelines and reference points for instructors, schools, and students of all levels between kindergarten and the 12th grade.
As the Common Core is relatively new, there is still a lot of debate about the effectiveness of the initiative.
When the program was launched, 46 states adopted it, but six states out of these 46 repealed their participation, bringing down the number of actively participating states to 40.

Targeted Students
The PARCC standardized tests are designed for students enrolled in grades 3 to 11. The test questions are formed in such a way to completely integrate the level of education that the student should ideally possess after a year of schooling, with real world problems to gauge how ready the student is to set foot in the real world.

Member States
When the PARCC testing was initiated in 2010, 24 states joined hands and implemented this standardized tests in their states. Unfortunately, due to controversies and lack of research on the effectiveness of the tests, the hesitation displayed by many students and their parents, most of the states have repealed their memberships and have returned to the previous forms of standardized testing.
Currently, the following are active members of PARCC:
District of Colombia
Illinois
Louisiana
Maryland
Massachusetts
New Jersey
New Mexico
Ohio
Out of these, Illinois implements the PARCC tests only up till the 8th grade and continues to use SATs for grades 9-11.

Contents of the PARCC Test
In the short time since their launch, the contents of the PARCC tests have been modified several times to accommodate more and more students and to maximize state participation. Regardless of these efforts, PARCC tests still have not gained much popularity in most states, and even in states where it is enforced, parents and students have repeatedly voiced their concerns or boycotted the tests.
The PARCC test is divided into two main modules- Mathematics and English/Language Arts. The exam questions are modeled to promote critical thinking, analytic power of students and their problem-solving skills.
Anyone with a little bit of experience in the world of academia, e it as a student, parent of a student or as an instructor, would know that when it comes to any test or exam, the way a question is asked is just as important as what is being asked. The PAARC tests aim to integrate both aspects and come up with a comprehensive testing strategy to gauge a student’s standing and his readiness for college and career.

Preparing for the PARCC Tests
Experts and test makers state that if students are provided with an education that is compliant with the guidelines set up by the PARCC and the Common Core, then students do not need any extra preparation for the PARCC tests.
Sample papers and past PARCC tests are available online to facilitate students who are preparing for the tests.

PARCC Scores and What They Imply
Instead of being rewarded or penalized by a student’s PARCC tests, these tests aim to provide an efficient evaluation of a student’s performance and knowledge. The test results are shared with the students, teachers, administrators, and parents so that they can reevaluate their education strategies with the aim of bringing up the test scores of the students in that school and state.

As noted before, the effectiveness of the PARCC tests as a measure of a student’s performance or readiness for college and career is not an established notion. A lot of debate and conflict still clouds the tests and is because the tests are relatively new and not enough research has been conducted. As well, not enough statistics are provided to demonstrate a relationship between PARCC test scores and success in the career or college life of the student.

The PARCC tests have a performance level based scoring system. In other words, in addition to providing the students with a numerical representation of their performance in the test, the PARCC tests also place them on a spectrum divided into performance levels. There are five different levels, with level one and two implying the student needs significant improvement to meet the standards set by the PARCC and Common Core. Meanwhile, level 3 signifies a good performance by the student with some room for improvement. O the other hand, a level 4 or 5 imply that the student has met or exceeded the expectations set by the PARCC and the Common Core.

Final Verdict
Although a lot of research and statistics are required to prove or disprove the effectiveness of the PARCC standardized tests, that requires time and patience. Unless a significant number of graduates who have undertaken the PARCC tests enter the professional world or colleges, there can’t be enough relevant data for a proper conclusion. For now, it should suffice for schools nationwide to maximize their efforts to ensure that every student who graduates does so equip with the necessary tools and skills required for him or her to survive in college and career.