Voices from the First Round of the PARCC Field Tests in New Jersey Schools

John Mooney | May 2, 2014 | Education
NJ Spotlight asked readers involved in the tests to share their experiences. You can join the conversation as well

computer testing kids
The second phase in the field tests of the online PARCC exams will start next week, with the state Department of Education inviting still more districts to take part.

New Jersey is already one of the biggest participants in the shakeout, with more than 60,000 students taking part last month. More than 1,000 schools are expected to participate next week.

During the first cycle of field tests in April, NJ Spotlight asked its readers — teachers, administrators, parents, and students themselves — to comment on the new exams.
As the second round starts next week, we’re again asking those involved in the testing to share their experiences with us.

Here’s a small sampling of what we’ve been told thus far:

“Teachers and nontesting students have no access to computers and media resources during the testing days. This is getting to be a real problem, since the amount of testing days can approach 30 and administration has not indicated that there is going to be an improvement in access next year.” — teacher with students involved in the field test

“Education in the school came to a screeching halt. No other uses of technology were permitted during testing time. Students reported that the test itself was a big waste of time. Students also reported many problems with the process itself. Administrators were invisible during the process, as they were preoccupied with the tests. — teacher with students involved in the field test

“She enjoyed the experience. She said the questions were hard . . . . Learning to manage your time as you take the test seems to be the biggest challenge. — parent of a child in the field test

“It will force technology to be used in instruction, and it will raise the bar for students to learn touch-typing. Classroom instruction time will be reduced due to testing time . . . It was very frustrating getting all students logged onto the [test site]. Some got on without a hitch. Others took over an hour of trying and retrying. — administrator in a district involved in the field testing

”Instructions could be a bit clearer. Our class was very confused by the difficulty of the problems . . . Perhaps this was because it was a field test and meant only to test if the technology works, rather than the actual test scores.” — student involved in the field test

“I am a teacher as well as a parent of a field-tested student. I am certain this sort of paradigm shift in high-stakes testing, where results will be used to ‘evaluate’ teachers, will force educators to spend more time instructing how to take the test, how to be most successful on the test, and how to remain motivated for the test than actually educating students. In essence, I fear PARCC and preparing for the PARCC will become education as we know it.” — parent and teacher of students participating in the field test

“We experienced a few issues with computers running Apple OS and also had a quick power outage which knocked out our whole network — but everyone was able to restart and complete the test.”

“We had most students complete the [language arts] test in about half of the allotted time. Students had no issues adapting to the testing platform no matter what computer they were put on (we used, MACs, PCs and Chromebooks)

“I think the biggest hurdle is going to be teaching the teachers — our tech team had to be very involved in assisting the teachers with the ins and outs of the testing portal they use to set up and start/stop/resume the test. — administrator in school participating in the field test