By Nick McDaniels – There are many valid ways to criticize the PARCC test, Common Core, and the Pearson Education Dynasty. Much of this criticism requires speculation, however.
Well, as we begin to really embark on a new regime of high stakes testing called PARCC, one thing is becoming abundantly clear. Poorly funded school districts do not have the capacity to implement a computer-based test. At schools in our poorest urban and rural districts, technology access, broadband capacity, and staff and student technological literacy are real issues that impact teaching and learning every day in a way that staff and students in affluent districts probably cannot even imagine in 2016.
Pearson, of course, wants PARCC testing to be computer-based because they get to maximize profits by cutting the expenses of printing and grading paper-based tests. And as Pearson said it, so it was done. Many school systems have begun the new era of high stakes testing, where students strain their eyes in front of computers for hours taking tests that can be graded almost as soon as a student clicks submit.
For districts with one-to-one technology access, high levels of staff and student computer literacy, and strong broadband connectivity, this is an easy, perhaps even welcomed, shift. But alas, these districts, with their robust budgets, often boast high passage rates on standardized tests regardless of format.
The districts where test scores have been traditionally lowest are the districts that are seeing students sit in front of a computer, taking a very hard test, as servers crash, computers turn off and on without warning, and interactive parts of the test fail to work because of broadband problems.
What the computerized PARCC test has done is take standardized testing, made the test more challenging, and increased the barriers for success for students in areas that have traditionally seen the lowest test scores. How did the PARCC do this? They shifted the test from paper to silicon and shifted Pearson’s profits from outstanding to unfathomable.