PARCC to be given at Westwood

PARCC to be given at Westwood

Juli Lamparillo, Editor in Chief

Starting this year, Westwood Regional Jr./Sr. High School students will be taking a new standardized test called the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).  It will be taken by grades 3-11 in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

Previously, students had to take the NJASK from third grade up until eighth grade. Then, in 11th grade, they had to take the HSPA. Instead of giving students different tests and leaving a gap in freshman and sophomore year, the states who joined the Common Core (currently 43 and the District of Columbia) will only be giving students the PARCC.

According to English Supervisor Joel Barbarito, giving students this assessment will “measure students’ progress with no gaps.” Tests like the NJASK and the HSPA were specifically for New Jersey, and test scores could only be compared throughout the state. The PARCC is nearly nationwide, so scores can be compared across the entire country. Any flaws or problems with the test can now have greater statistics and more consistency.

The NJASK and the HSPA included a science section, but the PARCC does not. This does not, however, mean that there will be no scientific aspects included within the test. Barbarito stated that the test will consists of English sections that contain factual information. The test will be taken once in March and once in May; the section in March will have three essays that must be written based on a narrative, literary analysis, and a research simulation task (RST). This part will include science-based information.

Regarding the beneficiality of the PARCC compared to other assessments, Barbarito said, “The PARCC could potentially give a more accurate measure of student analysis skills than the tests they have taken in the past.”

Dr. Scott Cascone, Principal at Westwood, had a similar outlook on the situation. He stated that the previous assessments were essentially brainless. “The value of the PARCC is greater than the previous assessments in the sense that it values a students’ ability to think for themselves,” said Cascone. Allegedly, the PARCC is not just testing the ability of a student to read a passage and answer questions; the sections require a higher level of thinking.

There are students that are not good test-takers, and that is inevitable in any school. Both Cascone and Barbarito agree that the grades a student has in a class should correlate with the score they receive on the PARCC in that particular section. Barbarito, however, brought up an interesting point. “Laziness factors greatly into a class grade. Tests, essays, homework, and participation affect a student’s grade.”

While it may be a struggle for some students, it is not easy to pass high school without good test-taking skills. Even if a student doesn’t score well on the PARCC, they must show some kind of ability to do well on a large test, such as the SAT or the ACT, according to Barbarito and Cascone.

Currently, teachers at Westwood are being educated on the PARCC and they are learning what types of things must be taught to their students in order to be prepared. Testing will begin in March of 2015, revealing the first part of the PARCC. Then, in May, the second part will be given and the very first year of PARCC testing will be concluded.