“I think they’re really beautiful tools, but they’re just tests,” the CEO of the PARCC testing group told Colorado school administrators Friday. “The really important thing is what happens in the classroom every day,”
Laura Slover acknowledged rising criticism of standardized tests but said, “This is not a testing agenda; it’s a equity agenda.”
Slover spoke to the closing session of the Colorado Association of School Executive’s annual summer meeting in Breckenridge, which drew more than 1,000 administrators and others.
Calling the PARCC language arts and math tests “a huge game changer,” Slover said, “This is a quality test. It’s better than anything else out there on the market.”
Some Colorado schools field-tested the new exams last spring, and the tests are scheduled to be given in all districts next spring, replacing the TCAP tests. However, a new state task force is studying a variety of testing issues, and assessment is expected to be a major education issue during the 2015 legislative session.
“There is a lot of frustration about testing,” Slover acknowledged, particularly the perception of a growing testing burden. PARCC is working on a whole system of tests, including diagnostic and formative exams in addition to the end-of-year tests.
Slover asked, “Is this an opportunity to streamline and look at PARCC as a solution and not an additive extra thing you have to do?”
She also said, “The PARCC assessments do not require some separate kind of test prep. … If teachers teach the content their kids will do fine. It’s about good teaching, it’s not about drill-and-kill test prep.”
Slover started her education career as an English teacher and basketball coach at Battle Mountain High School in Eagle County. She recalled that she didn’t pay much attention to standards and assessments in those days.
“Those standards and those results sat in a nice cupboard and I didn’t use them much,” she said. “I wish I’d had tools like the PARCC states are developing now.”
Colorado educators who participated in a panel following Slover’s talk were generally supportive.
Tracy Dorland, chief academic officer of the Adams 12-Five Star district, said Common Core standards and new tests are “about raising the bar for all kids,” adding she hopes the change “re-energizes our teachers.”
She said she’s concerned “that we lack the courage to get it done and that we get derailed by the political rhetoric, whether it’s left or right.”
Dorland also said teachers can help ease public concern about new tests. “When teachers tell parents good things about the work they’re doing parents are really supportive.”
Dan Snowberger, Durango superintendent, said the old state-only standards “created an un-level playing field” and cautioned, “If we think the new standards are about tweaking what we do, we’ve missed the mark.”
Snowberger also said, “My fear is that there will be this groundswell of anti-Common Core and that some educators will get on board with that.”