Now that the first round of this year’s PARCC exams is over, it’s time to analyze whether it lived up to people’s dire expectations. The week before the tests were taken, students at both Santa Fe High and Capital High—as well as students at schools in other New Mexico districts and other states—took part in walkouts in protest of the new exam. But when the week of testing arrived in early March, the majority of students at Santa Fe High School simply took it. The Monday that the tests began, only about 10 students walked out of Santa Fe High, and none were reported walking out of Capital. The PARCC, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is a short, comprehensive test that is to me much more efficient than the Standards Based Assessment, the multiple-choice exam we used to take in New Mexico. I found the PARCC, which tests our knowledge of the state’s new Common Core Standards, to be pretty painless. There are obvious differences between the PARCC and the SBA. The PARCC test is conducted online and has far fewer questions than the pencil-and-paper SBA. We were given 40 minutes to complete the English language arts portion of PARCC, and classes continue after the PARCC test is taken, whereas with the SBA, the rest of the school day was canceled. There are also similarities: Both the SBA and PARCC are state mandated, and both are created by the private firm Pearson Education. The issue of protest and anxiety seems to be less about what the PARCC test turned out to be -- and more about the stress we feel when the public education system designs yet another test for us to take. Many students are overwhelmed and believe that they spend too much time testing with finals and Advanced Placement exams—along with SATs and ACTs for juniors—taking place about the same time as the PARCC. Other students have taken a moral stance, arguing that a test score should not be used to evaluate the teachers or grade the school, which is what is happening in many states. The PARCC was administered in grades 3 to 11, and some high school students who are not seniors believe that they should not be forced to take the PARCC when they have adapted to taking the SBA for all these years. Will the protests impact the future of PARCC? Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd encouraged Santa Fe High students to write letters voicing their opinions to Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera, and petitions have been created and distributed by students and parents against the PARCC. But what would happen next if the state or district did put an end to PARCC? For me, going back to taking the SBA seems far less appealing than taking the PARCC. I agree that a test score should not reflect a student’s potential, but so far, neither the state nor the school district has come up with another way to show whether students are learning in schools. Now that the first round of PARCC is over, the popular opinion among students seems to be indifference. Maybe students are simply tired of discussing the PARCC, but we’ll see what happens when we have a second, shorter round of PARCC testing in late April.
Isabelle Clinton is a junior at Santa Fe High School. Contact her at IClinton5@gmail.com. An earlier verison of this post appeared as a commentary on the Santa Fe New Mexican news site.