Every Student Should Take the PARCC Exam Because It's the Least Bad

You guys, it’s great that states want to develop their own standardized tests. Really, it is. But, come on. They are expensive and sometimes there are problems with those tests, you know? We should all take the same test because it’s a little cheaper and there are fewer problems.

That is essentially the thesis of this column over at U.S. News and World Report.

Without a doubt, PARCC and Smarter Balanced aren’t perfect. The consortia will need to continue to improve and refine the tests to make sure they’re providing the most useful and timely information possible about student progress. And they’ll need to be vigilant about making sure that the technical problems they experienced in the first year don’t reappear. But there’s no question that these tests are far better than what came before.

It might be appealing for a state to say that it wants its own test for its own students. But PARCC and Smarter Balanced have already done the hard work of developing top-tier tests. Is measuring math and reading achievement so different in Indiana than it is in Illinois? Is it worth wasting millions more dollars and risking major malfunctions? Not really. States should think twice about going it alone, and should continue to work together to give their students the best possible tests – and save money in the process.

You can think the PARCC exam is the greatest thing ever (I, as a teacher, parent, and former student HATE standardized testing), but if you do, try to use talking points that actually deal with education.

States are moving away from the PARCC exam because many of them see the U.S. government attempting to strong-arm Common Core State Standards and the tests/curricula that align to them on the nation as a whole. The state’s are pushing back against that and, sure, there are going to be problems, and, sure, it’s going to cost more money. But the federal government shouldn’t be forcing states to adopt certain education policies (in fact, they are specifically barred from doing so), but they are finding new and exciting ways to, and the states are struggling.

As someone who has administered paper versions of the PARCC exam in Louisiana, I don’t buy the idea that it is any better than anything the state could come up with. Sure, as a fiscal conservative, I should want my state to spend less money, but I recognize that certain costs are going to be incurred and I damn sure don’t want the things taught in California or New York to be what my students are expected to know. I want my students to leave my class knowing what will be most helpful to them in both school in life, and that’s not really something the PARCC exam reinforces in kids.