Scot Gets Lazy: My Comment to Journal Column on PARCC

The following was written in response to D’Val Westphal’s “primer” on PARCC scores found in today’s Albuquerque Journal.  As I’ve been mulling around the “returned work” aspect, I’ll be lazy and just cross-post the comment here. 
Of the several things missing in these reports, the single most important is returning the student’s graded work. These “reports” shown here with their simple numbers and education jargon-filled descriptions don’t help parent, teacher and especially student nearly as much as would be the case if the student’s test was returned, graded, with annotations/explanations from graders explaining why the student scored as s/he did.
You know, like any teacher would do.
As a writing teacher myself, the most important thing I can offer students is the chance to understand, through feedback, what worked and didn’t work in their writing, and how, in simple English they can understand, specific examples conform or don’t conform to “formal English” and such.
If I simply put a grade on a blank piece of paper and surrounded that two-digit number with some big, fancy words which do nothing to specifically explain, in plain English, why the student got the two-digit number…I’d be horribly remiss in my job and shouldn’t be a writing teacher.
Meanwhile, featuring “open-ended” questions beyond the multiple choice bubbles was one of the biggest selling points of PARCC. That selling point loses all its luster if the open-ended answers don’t come back, graded, to the student/parent. It is curious that PARCC offers “amazing” online technology requiring states/districts/schools to spend countless dollars upgrading their computer/bandwidth systems, yet can’t even offer score reports equivalent to that offered by any teacher.
Last, as we’re speaking about returning graded PARCC tests, I urge the state PED and PARCC to also release the evaluatory essays written by students at the end of the tests. These essays were in response to questions like: “How did you like PARCC?” As a teacher/”test administrator,” I was legally bound to NEVER look at the test questions/student responses, but I did see students much more energetically, fervently so in many cases, responding to these evaluatory questions than any others. Their compositional time spent aggressively banging on the keyboard in these responses was often far longer, too.
Let’s see the student evaluations. Let’s see the graded test and get beyond the educational jargon. It’s more than technologically possible and would be far, far more beneficial educationally. Not doing so also gives students/parents/teachers the impression PARCC and entities such as the New Mexico Public Education Department are too scared to release graded tests and, most specifically, the student evaluations. It’s a pity PARCCs/PEDs fear and lack of professional self-confidence might be leading to woefully underinformed students/parents/teachers.

2 thoughts on “Scot Gets Lazy: My Comment to Journal Column on PARCC

  1. And you would be even more remiss if it took you half a year to grade those papers!

    My self-imposed rule when grading involved work was that students would ALWAYS get it back within five school days.

    To have any meaning to students and parents, scores must be returned before the end of that school year.

  2. Good point, as always, Steve. Moreover, there’s an accountability that comes with grading overall (including speed in returning graded work), something completely missing with PARCC (and SBA before it). Hiding behind these jargon-filled (but so very, very stylish) “reports” is so unprofessional and disingenuous that I’m afraid I’ll have to write about 50,000 words more about this. Readers are hereby warned (marketing has never been my strength, unlike PARCC, for which marketing is the only strength it/they have got).

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