The state of Ohio has instituted the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) as a graduation requirement to replace the Ohio Graduation Tests. According to High School Principal Tom Marquette, the change will take effect for the class of 2018, which corresponds to this year’s freshmen class.
Assistant Middle School Principal Steve Paramore gave his affirmation saying, “I believe they are tests that provide added rigor for students and it has helped teachers push students to new levels of learning.”
Not everyone in Ashland is ready to give their endorsement of the tests though. There are a number who have significant reservations.
Cody Ragle is perhaps the most outspoken and forthright. “Common Core/PARCC is nothing more than a Washington-led and Washington-fed power grab. It is an attempt to control education at every level.”
Ragle is an administrator for the Facebook page “Common Core is Not OK Ashland County.” She is also a member of the Mapleton school board where she said she has spoken out repeatedly against Common Core and the PARCC testing since being aware of its presence in our area. She also said she has attended hearings at the statehouse and even submitted written testimony against it.
Ragle explained that the PARCC testing aids the federal government’s over-extending reach into the local people’s lives. “To have a chance at passing the PARCC, students must be taught what is on the test. Hence the curriculum [will have to be] aligned with the PARCC.”
Thus, in Ragle’s eyes, teachers are forced to become servants of the state rather than the student.
But Ragle isn’t alone in her reservations. A rumble of unease has been voiced by a variety of parents throughout the district. Some, such as Luke McFredrick, are going so far as to opt their children out of the testing.
McFredrick recounted a number of reasons why he and his wife chose to do so, but uncertainty and skepticism might be the underlying stream that tied them together.
“I do not like the fact that there have been a lot of questions as to the purpose of this test and how the results will be used.” He added, “I know there is a growing number of people who are asking questions and I personally spoke to several families who were choosing not to participate in the PARCC tests. I feel there was little information out ahead of time and many people had no idea about the test.”
McFredrick’s skepticism, it should be noted, is directed towards the testing and not the teachers.
“We are lucky to have a great public school system with many highly skilled staff and administrators to educate and develop our children. I would like to see them have more freedom to create and develop strategies and techniques that best suit their individual classrooms as opposed to always compiling data & following specific templates to educate our children.”
Dardi Hendershott is another who has expressed PARCC trepidation. Her apprehensions were over the fact that the tests do not account for the differences that exist among students’ styles and capabilities.
“These tests are creating an environment that is robotic in nature, taking no outside variables into consideration, such as ESL learners, different abilities, children experiencing trauma, etc.”
Some of Hendershott’s red flags were reinforced when her son met with problems on a trial PARCC test.
“Our older son was part of a practice test group, and he said that one of the terms in the math portion of the test could not even be found in their text book. He said many of the questions were confusing and that some of the adults in the room could not even decipher what was being asked.”
In his interview AHS principal Tom Marquette was honest to admit that the PARCC tests were still in their initial stages. Thus, he recognized that some difficulties would need to be ironed out.
“All indications are that the testing format will be reviewed and revised in the future. But at this point, we will do the best we can to implement the current testing format.”
Such accommodations may not be enough to quell the questions of Ashland residents though.
Ragle noted something of the enduring resistance by quoting editorialist George Will:
“I don’t care if the standards are written by Aristotle, perfected by Shakespeare, approved by Newton, and endorsed by Jefferson. They are wrong because they are the thin end of an enormous federal wedge that will inevitably give you a standard to cause the textbooks to be aligned with the exams, and you will get a national curriculum which is forbidden by law that will come in by stealth and indirection."