“College and Career Readiness” and Standardized Testing

Since returning to the US this past summer after working in an international school for the past three school years, I have been learning about the Common Core Standards and the ‘next-generation’ PARCC standardized assessments that have been created to test these standards.  I have read many critiques of both the standards and the required computerized testing, but when I discovered that these tests will extend to Grade 11 students for next year, the issue became very personal. To address just one specific and personal issue with the PARCC assessments,  I sent a version of the following letter to David Coleman, the president of the College Board; Laura McGiffert Slover, CEO of the PARCC consortium; and my representative to the Colorado State Board of Education.  I will post any responses I receive to this website.

Dear David Coleman,

My name is Elizabeth Skelton, and I am an educator as well as the mother of a Grade 10 student.

I know that you are the current president of the College Board, and I understand that you were one of the main architects of the Common Core State Standards, which my state of Colorado has adopted.  Colorado is also a member of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium and will begin administering the PARCC assessments next school year to measure whether students will be college and career ready at the end of high school.  These standardized tests for Grade 11 students are scheduled to take 12 hours.  My daughter’s high school schedules these exams during a week in which no regular classes are held, and students follow a separate testing schedule.

As the current president of the College Board, I hope you can answer one personally motivated question about the new requirements for standardized testing for Grade 11 students.  Because Colorado already requires high school juniors to take the ACT exam, I was surprised to learn that my daughter will be required to sit for even more standardized PARCC assessments next year.  The ACT claims to “assess students’ academic readiness for college”, so why do the PARCC assessments require high school juniors in Colorado to take an additional 12 hours of standardized tests?

My Grade 10 daughter is currently taking 2 Advanced Placement courses and has already paid the College Board for the privilege of taking the standardized AP exams in 2 subjects.  If she scores high enough on these AP exams, many colleges and universities will recognize the course, proving that she is ‘college and career’ ready.  By the time she graduates from high school, she will have taken at least 6 AP courses.   According to the College Board, students who successfully complete AP courses and exams demonstrate that “they are ready for the challenge of higher education.”  If this is still the belief of your organization, the College Board, why will my daughter  also be required to prove her college readiness with an additional 12 hours of standardized tests?

A recent study about the predictive value of standardized testing for college success clearly illustrates that students with strong high school grade point averages and low standardized test scores outperform students with high standardized test scores and a lower grade point averages.  This study indicates that hard work over a sustained period of time matters more for college success than the scores on standardized tests.   Many colleges and universities are now ‘test optional’ for these reasons.  If my daughter continues to maintain her 4.3 Grade Point Average, why would she have to prove her college and career readiness with an additional 12 hours of standardized testing?

At this point, I cannot see any educationally sound reason why my daughter should have to spend another week of her high school education sitting for PARCC assessments.  Unless someone can help me understand the value of the PARCC assessments for my daughter’s education and ‘college readiness’, she will join the thousands who have already opted out.  We will plan to use the extra week of non-educational time to visit colleges and universities that will not be interested in her scores on the PARCC.

I will pose my questions to the Colorado Board of Education as well as Laura McGiffert Slover, CEO of the PARCC consortium and I will post any answers I receive on my blog at:  www.bethskelton.com

I look forward to your response.

Respectfully,

Elizabeth Skelton

One Comment

  1. First comment from the Colorado State Board of Education–good news!

    Pursuant to state law, Colorado is a governing member of PARCC, a multi-state assessment consortium developing English language arts and mathematics assessments. Schools across the state are currently field-testing the PARCC assessments, which are scheduled for implementation in the spring of 2015.

    Following the panel presentation and board discussion, the state board voted to request that the General Assembly “restore the authority to the State Board of Education over statewide assessments by repealing during this legislative session, 22-7-1006 (1.5); in so doing, allow Colorado to withdraw as a governing member of PARCC, with the Colorado signatories to the MOU rescinding that agreement with PARCC, thereby allowing the board to direct the commissioner to develop an assessment aligned with the Colorado Academic Standards, for implementation in Spring 2015.”

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