Three Reasons the PARCC Exam is Bad for Our Children

Even though I am a public school teacher, I don’t often write about education on this blog, but current trends in education and the effects of the impending PARCC exam on my students and my own children, are making it difficult for me to feel inspired to write about much else.  So, maybe I’ll just get a few things off my chest…

Full disclosure, I have not taken the PARCC or seen the test.  My information comes from articles by other educators who have. I have yet to read a positive article about this test.

Like a lot of parents, teachers, and students, I have been concerned about the over-testing of American students for a long time.  American students are among the most tested in the world, yet compared to other developed nations,  we continue to achieve lower PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores.  Apparently this worries a lot of politicians and educational reformers, but in fact, there is no proof that there is a link between PISA scores and America’s success economically or militarily.

The PARCC exam, the new Common Core assessment designed  replace states’ previous year-end evaluation, is the latest standardized effort to bring American students up to speed with the rest of the world.  The problem is, the PARCC is a bad test.

  • The PARCC is too difficult.  Students who take the PARCC will be tested over information that is beyond their grade level. Also many of the exam’s questions are vague or awkwardly worded. Giving students a test this frustrating makes no sense.  Not only does this fail to give schools any useful information about student learning, it will likely cause many students to feel defeated and discouraged – as if over-testing hasn’t already done a great job of that.
  • The PARCC is a computer based exam.  This means that in order to take the PARCC, students as young as third grade will be expected to not only to concentrate on confusing and difficult material, but on confusing and awkward technology as well.
  • The PARCC takes an inordinate amount of time.  There is a huge emphasis in education on instructional time.  Schools are doing away with “wasted time” by cutting back on things like recess and nap time for Kindergarten.  Yet, according to this Illinois superintendent’s letter to parents, the PARCC will take as many as 14 hours.  Of course not all of that 14 hours is for testing.  A large chunk of time is spent teaching students how to take this complicated test on the computer.

Fortunately most states have figured out that the PARCC is a waste of time and money.  Right now, only ten states are still planning to use the test this year.  My own state, Arkansas, is considering doing away with the PARCC, but unfortunately for Arkansas children it looks like the state’s decision about this exam will not come in time to spare students the frustration, anxiety, and wasted time caused be this test.

My understanding is that the argument for continuing with the PARCC, even though it is acknowledged to be a poor assessment, is that it is too late in the year to do anything else.  This kind of thinking underscores not only Arkansan’s but the nation’s  insane obsession with testing.  Do our law makers actually believe it is better to give Arkansas students a truly bad assessment than no assessment at all.  What would happen if Arkansas children went a year without an end-of-year assessment?  Would they all go on to the next grade unprepared?  Would they fall behind students in other states?  Would they lose the ability to sit for hours on end taking the all-important test?

I spoke to my school’s superintendent about opting out of the PARCC for my kids, and although he sympathized with my frustration, it is our district’s policy not to promote students to the next grade level if they do not take standardized exams.  Because I work at the school, I have to choose my battles. My kids are good test takers, and taking the PARRC exam, while a waste of their time, is unlikely to produce any serious anxiety for them, so I won’t fight my district’s policy.  I will however, write to my state legislators. If we continue to put testing and data-collection ahead of real learning and student well-being, as this test does, I am convinced we will do long-term damage to our children.  I am going to ask that Arkansas reconsider forcing students to take a test that we know will be obsolete in a year.  Please consider writing your state legislators today.


This mother’s letter to President Obama explains the problems with the PARCC better than I do.

A funny, yet sobering, look at what our kids are in for.


5 thoughts on “Three Reasons the PARCC Exam is Bad for Our Children

  1. What I would like to know is who profits by writing all these new tests? Following the money is usually a great way to get to the bottom of things.

  2. I overheard a conversation between a couple of my students after the practice test. One said that he just blew off the whole test as it was only a practice but the other was upset. She didn’t understand the questions or instructions. She tried on at least one part because she was so afraid of not passing the real test. What are we doing to our kids? Why would anyone want them to be this stressed over a test, that as the author of the blog said, is a BAD test. It will not test what it should therefore it isn’t valid.

    1. Paula, I think we setting up our kids for one of two scenarios. They will either figure out that all this testing is BS and start blowing off not just the tests, but education in general. Or they will develop a fear of testing and a dread of education in general. I’m not a believer that everything we do has to be fun and exciting, but when the focus is on testing, kids will eventually check out – I actually think we are seeing this already.

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