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Caroline Bermudez

Let’s Cut Through the Hysteria: Teachers on PARCC

One of my favorite education articles in recent memory is Tim Murphy’s piece for Mother Jones analyzing the pushback to the Common Core. Reading the plethora of stories about opt-out hysteria reminded me of this choice bit:
Perhaps second only to Obamacare, Common Core has become a rallying cry on the right, evoking the kind of anguish and horror once reserved for the so-called death panels. And unlike health care reform, Common Core has tapped into a vein of outrage on the left as well.
Testing has become another kind of bogeyman, the locus of all that is “wrong with education.” It’s robbing children of their self-esteem, causing parents anxiety and ruining the teaching profession as we know it. But is it? A report from Teach Plus suggests otherwise. The organization surveyed more than 1,000 teachers who were brought in for a day of professional development to learn more about the PARCC tests, their connection to the Common Core, and to share what they looked for when it comes to testing. Teachers were then given the opportunity to review sample items from the PARCC test and offer their feedback. What do these teachers think? On the whole, they see PARCC as an improvement over previous tests. The majority of them, 69 percent, said the sample items they viewed measured critical thinking skills “extremely well” or “very well.” Most also think PARCC does a good job testing skills outlined by the Common Core. 63 percent said PARCC was “extremely well-aligned” or “quite well-aligned” to the standards. PARCC is promising, but there are signs that teachers feel its rollout may need work. When teachers were asked, “Do PARCC sample questions more accurately measure the content you teach in your classroom as compared to your previous test?” only 43 percent said yes, while 34 percent said they were unsure, and 23 percent said no. Teach Plus suggests that this gap could be due to curricular choices, lack of professional development and support materials, or insufficient time to implement the standards. Professional development matters a great deal to teachers and devoting more attention to it for the PARCC would put them more at ease. Eighty-six percent of teachers surveyed said learning how to prepare students for the tests would be “extremely useful” or “very useful.” Murphy hypothesized that once the resistance and paranoia dies down, Common Core, similar to Obamacare, would be seen as a step in the right direction:
The trajectory of Common Core just might wind up resembling that of the Affordable Care Act. Once the hysteria passes, it's likely to be viewed as a genuine improvement to the education system—even if the vision of a national standard isn't fully realized.
It’s reasonable to believe the same could happen for PARCC. Teachers seem to think so.
Caroline Bermudez
Caroline Bermudez is chief storyteller at the Charter School Growth Fund and former senior writer at Education Post. Bermudez has been a journalist for almost 10 years. She was staff editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, covering the nonprofit world, with a particular focus on foundations and high net-worth giving. She has interviewed prominent business, political and philanthropic leaders ...

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