Read One School Superintendent’s Warning about the PARCC Common Core Exams

The protests against the Common Core curriculum are continuing to build. Most of those speaking out, however, have been teachers, parents, and students. Recently the superintendent of a major school district in Illinois has added her opinion.

Superintendent Trisha Kocanda of Winnetka Public Schools has issued a warning letter to parents, district staff, and the community about the PARCC Common Core examination that will be administered to students in March and May. She writes:

As we learn more about the assessment, we grow wary. We are concerned about the amount of instructional time it will displace, the impact this will have on students, and the usefulness of the results.

The test that concerns Superintendent Kocanda, and so many other educators and parents, was developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two federally funded organizations charged with creating new Common Core tests with $360 million in federal funds. (The other organization is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.) As of 2010, PARCC had 26 member states, but more than half have withdrawn, and today there are fewer than a dozen states committed to using the PARCC examination in 2015.

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Located just north of Chicago on Lake Michigan, Winnetka is one of the most affluent cities in the country. The school district’s website says they have “led the nation in progressive education and served as a model for educators who value the development of the whole child.” New Trier Township High School is nationally recognized.

Kocanda’s letter addresses several issues:

Testing Time:
The PARCC exam takes approximately 13 to 14 hours for middle school students. The ISAT test (previously used by the district) took less than seven hours.

Test Format:
PARCC is computer-based and requires students to “manage multiple screens, prompts, and tools while typing their responses in a timed situation.” STAR, a local assessment tool already used by the district, is taken online, but requires only a single response on a single screen, which is much simpler for students to manage.

Instructional Impact:
The examinations will cause extended disruption of the students’ schedules.

Testing Stress:
The district worries that the length of the exam, the difficulty, and the disruption of their routine will be stressful for any students.

Kocanda closes by saying:

It is important that we stay informed and understand the impact of reform on our students. We often share stories about District driven goals and initiatives. I believe it is equally important to shed light on State requirements that influence local decisions and ultimately our students’ experiences.

In other words, this superintendent is laying it on the line in terms of the level of difficulty the PARCC Common Core examinations present for teachers, staff and students.