Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Clear
55°
Clear
Hi 82° | Lo 55°

Time, technology are top concerns cited by area school leaders about new PARCC exams

  • Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS


    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS


    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS


    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Camille Jasiorkowski takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Camille Jasiorkowski takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marlena Schlerman takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Marlena Schlerman takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.


    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS


    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS


    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS


    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS


    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Camille Jasiorkowski takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Camille Jasiorkowski takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marlena Schlerman takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Marlena Schlerman takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.


    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS


    Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Camille Jasiorkowski takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Marlena Schlerman takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Camille Jasiorkowski takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Marlena Schlerman takes notes while Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • <br/>Teresa Barut teaches an honors Geometry class at Hampshire Regional Friday morning. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

But Jurgensen, whose district is among those chosen to try out the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams this year, is worried about the mechanics of launching the new system by the state’s target deadline of 2015.

Fifteen years after the state began using the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System to identify student achievement gaps, state education officials are preparing to introduce a “next-generation” test system they say will do a better job at capturing information about classroom learning.

In contrast to when MCAS began, the debate is not so much over whether testing is good or bad, experts say. Instead, questions are being raised about exactly how the new tests will be administered and what schools will learn from them.

Andrew Churchill, one of 24 educators chosen to study and communicate about the test launch, said most educators he’s heard from support the aims of PARCC.

“When you get down to how people feel about testing, we’ve fought that battle already in Massachusetts,” said Churchill, a senior researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a former Amherst school board member.

Jurgensen cited technology as a major concern in rolling out the new computer-based PARCC exams.

“It raises a lot of issues for us,” he said.“Our schools in Williamsburg have good connectivity but the hardware is old. In Goshen, they are still on dialup.”

While a multi-state consortium developing the new exam system has provided model teaching units and suggestions for ways schools can find money for technology, Jurgensen said it is not providing actual grants.

“As with a lot of things coming to the schools, this is coming with no funding,” he added.

Others say the PARCC tests, coming on top of other state education initiatives, will take up scarce administrative time and energy.

“The Department of Education is sending out emails faster than I can read them,” said Regina Nash, interim superintendent of the Northampton schools.

If approved by the state Board of Education later this fall, the PARCC tests in English and math could be required for high school graduation by 2018, though decisions about changing those requirements have not been made.

Brian Beck, principal of Hopkins Academy in Hadley, which will be part of a PARCC tryout this spring, said he’s still trying to figure out what the new computer-based tests mean for his school.

“It does require a new approach to administer,” Beck said. “It’s also going to drive instruction.”

He wonders how teachers will need to change what they do in the classroom to ready students for the new tests in English and math.

Shirley Gilfether, curriculum director for the Easthampton schools, pointed out that teachers in her district are still working to align their courses with the Common Core standards adopted in 2010 by Massachusetts and 44 other states. Those standards aim to set more rigorous benchmarks for student achievement that are common across states.

“You can’t get ready for PARCC until all that work is done,” Gilfether said. “If we were a big school district with lots of money it would be one thing. But in a lot of our local districts, you have just one person like me.”

Finding time in the school day to adequately prepare teachers and students for the new, more complex testing system is also a challenge, she said.

“Intellectually, we embrace this because it raises the bar,” Gilfether said. “But there are a lot of unknowns.”

State Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester, who is on the governing board of the multi-state consortium developing PARCC, concedes that schools need financial help to roll out the new testing system — particularly when it comes to technology. He said he hopes to secure more money for school technology through the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program, which helps schools and libraries obtain Internet access and set up computer networks.

Chester said he is also talking with state Treasurer Steven Grossman about making grants from the Massachusetts School Building Authority available to schools for technology upgrades. “I don’t have an update on that,” he said, in an interview last week.

As for concerns about the time schools must spend preparing for PARCC, Chester emphasized that the new exams are based on Common Core standards schools are already implementing.

“PARCC will be a complement, not an add-on” for schools, he said.

Broader concerns

In addition to logistics, some school leaders worry about how the new college-and-career ready tests will be used to evaluate students, schools and teachers.

“Schools are all for assessments that help us improve,” said Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teacher Association. “But there’s still a debate about the high stakes use of assessments to rank schools and teachers in ways that have negative implications for communities and kids.”

Beth Choquette, principal of Bridge Street School in Northampton, said morale at her school has been affected in recent years by low performance rankings based on MCAS scores.

Choquette said she likes that the new PARCC tests aim to measure critical thinking and other higher-level skills “necessary to perform well.”

But, “as with MCAS, I do not believe it (PARCC) should be the only measure that the state uses to see what our students know and are able to do,” Choquette said. “There is a lot more to a school than what one single test says.”

Related

The end of MCAS? Eight local school districts are trying out a new test that could replace MCAS

Monday, May 5, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — Area public schools will give test runs to new standardized exams slated to replace the statewide MCAS in assessing student progress and ranking schools and teachers. Officials in Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, Hatfield, Northampton and Westhampton schools were notified last week that their schools were among those chosen for a statewide tryout of the new Partnership for … 1

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.