We desperately missed former Rio Grande SUN education reporter Barron Jones this week as the task fell to us to comb through pages of education jargon, acronyms and numbers to decipher Rio Arriba County’s performance in the annual Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests.
These tests are perennial hotbeds of debate. First there’s the argument about whether students should be tested, then using what system, and lastly how many tests, for which grades. What do these test scores mean, if anything?
It is not universally agreed upon that the Public Education Department should even impose testing on school districts around the state. Most agree there should be some test in place to measure progress but all of us get bogged down in the types of tests, what should and shouldn’t be on them and what they should test.
We remember a time when teachers taught school and students took either the California or the Iowa standardized tests and we did fine. If teachers were teaching English, math, science and history, according to the text books, students did well on the annual tests. A preponderance of students did well, regardless of ethnicity, gender or degree of nerdiness.
As for our 2018 scores, most schools hovered near where they were last year. See the story for a few specifics on your school. But by and large, some schools surge ahead one year, only to pull back the next. It was difficult to find any school that had showed solid progress over the four years we’ve lived with PARCC.
A short PARCC lesson: students’ test scores fall into five classes. Classes 1 through 3 are not proficient. Classes 4 and 5 are proficient. Obviously the goal is to jam those top two classes with high percentages. That’s not realistic.
However, it would be encouraging to see the percentages in Classes 1 to 3 move up to Classes 4 and 5. Even a small movement, 2 to 5 percent, every year would signal we’re doing something right.
What’s really disturbing is to look at 2016, 2017 and 2018 alongside each other and follow classes as they move through elementary school or high school. These are called cohort trends.
What we see is most classes continue to test about the same as they move through the grades. As Española School District Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez pointed out, math scores fall apart from elementary to junior high to high school. She has a few theories why that is but nothing clinical.
One thing is for sure. Parents who are involved in their children’s education make a difference.
Our next governor will do what every governor in the past two decades has done. He or she will throw out the current testing system, decrying it wrongheaded and wasteful and put in place a system that’s just as bad, if not worse. We believe the answer lies in our past. Let teachers teach, hold them accountable, weed out the poorly performing teachers and leave the good ones to do the job for which they're trained.
While searching for a cops and courts reporter and an education reporter we were shocked at the number of former teachers who are looking to go into journalism. Journalism is one of the least respected and most maligned jobs in the country in any poll, any year. But many teachers would rather move to journalism than teach.
All those we’ve interviewed said they were tired of shoddy, revolving door administrations, uneducated, out-of-touch school boards and parents defending a failing student when the parents aren’t involved. None of us would like to do our jobs with those restraints, yet we ask it of teachers.
It’s something worth discussing when asking why every school in the County has it students bunched together in the not proficient classes of PARCC.