Joseph Herbert teaches math at Wilson High School in the District of Columbia. In this post, he explains how PARCC, the Common Core test, hurt his students. He supports the Common Core but not the tests.

He writes that the current “reforms” are deeply flawed.

“The problem is two-fold: (1) the data collected do not reliably give us the information that reformers claim they do, and (2) the over-emphasis on testing is sucking the life and joy out of school, interfering significantly with actual teaching and learning, and narrowing the curriculum.”

VAM, he says, is unreliable and invalid, as is the data it produces.

Students lost many weeks of instructional time because of testing:

“Our freshmen and sophomores took over seven hours worth of PARCC tests in the month of March alone. Furthermore, they had a second round of PARCC tests in May followed shortly thereafter by final exams in June. Ultimately, these children had three out of the last four months of school dominated by tests.

“Previously, all students took the paper-and-pencil DC-CAS standardized test at the same time, and instruction was disrupted for about a week. With the new PARCC test, there was a much more protracted disruption to instruction. The PARCC test is administered online, but Wilson simply does not have the technological infrastructure to test large numbers of students simultaneously. Without the necessary IT infrastructure we were forced to test small groups of students on a rotating basis.

“As a result, we spent over three weeks administering the first round of PARCC tests alone. Students were forced to miss class to test while their classes went on, causing them to lose valuable instructional time.”

He does not blame the Common Core standards. He blames PARCC. To those who think we need annual testing, he points out that NAEP reports the gaps every two years, without the intrusiveness of PARCC.

He writes:

“Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves what kind of experience we want our children to have in school. I believe that kids learn more when they’re excited to come to school. I believe they learn more when they have meaningful and thoughtful questions to ask and answer. I believe math can and should be fun.

“I believe that if we want to stem the tide of DC’s dropout crisis, school should be a worthwhile place to attend, not a miserable experience of test taking.

“I believe that if we want to close the achievement gap, we need to have an open and honest conversation about what students need from school, what they want from school, and how we can get data on student performance without perversely affecting their school experience.

“Most of all, I believe that school is a place for profound growth and learning. Anything that detracts from or actively impedes that must go.”