Monday, April 21, 2014

Field-Testing of Common-Core Exams Gets Off to Shaky Start at Wootton HS

Full text of article at this Education Week link.
At Thomas S. Wootton High School, teachers and administrators seem to be in agreement that field-testing for the common-core assessments is off to a bumpy start. I spent the morning of April 2 in a computer lab at the school with 9th graders who were randomly assigned to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests in English/language arts. This was the group's second attempt at completing the computer-based tests, which are aligned to the Common Core State Standards.Last week, students at the school encountered technical difficulties—software systems that "weren't jiving," said Joseph Du Boyce, an assistant principal at Wootton High School—and eventually were sent back to their regular classrooms without taking the exam...,,,On the day I visited Wootton High, Mr. Du Boyce began by walking students through a Java update intended to help prevent software problems. He repeatedly urged the students to "be patient"—though his own actions revealed some edginess. He circled the lab with purpose and breezed through the instructions, which he later told me were "very unclear" and "poorly written.""Let's pray this works," he said to students as they clicked the sign-in box on their computer screens......As the students began the PARCC test, Mr. Du Boyce was rushed out of the room to address a technical problem in another computer lab. A few minutes later, the two remaining proctors realized that none of the students had headphones, which were supposed to have been distributed before the test began. A couple of students raised their hands when they reached items that required them to listen to a reading—though some did not and plowed on. About 10 minutes after testing had begun, a staff member entered with the headphones PARCC had provided. The proctors couldn't help but laugh as they picked apart the mess of tangled cords... 
...JeanMarie Joseph, a special education teacher at the school who has taught for 28 years, said she's seen the evolution of states tests and understands there are often "rough spots to iron out" with new assessments. However, having experienced the computer difficulties while administering the test to a student with special needs, she said, with PARCC, "I've been underwhelmed so far."


  1. I went to a Montgomery County elementary school in the 70's. I remember my dad scratching his head back then at how they were teaching math. It seems every couple of years someone has some bright idea on how to teach subjects which would seem pretty basic as far as English and math are concerned. Yet, every year as a country (and county) we keep falling further and further behind. I don't know if the methods of teaching are the problem or the fact we keep changing the methods. Change by itself is not progress. It doesn't seem like we were having a problem with the way we were teaching basic subjects 50+ years ago. Common Core will be replaced. But not because it sucks. Because people are in positions at all levels whose job it is to CHANGE THINGS. I'd like to think it is in pursuit of perfection (which you'll never reach). It's because if your job is to always change things, then you'll never settle on a way to teach kids...and that will always be labeled PROGRESS. We as parents will always look at our kids work coming home and say, "what the heck are you doing in that school?"

  2. A test run of the PARCC assessment was done this past week. My daughter and her friends complained that the tests ran very slowly on the recently-issued Chrome Books and that they (the Chrome Books, not the students) putzed out after a half-dozen questions. As a parent I am skeptical that MCPS has the technological infrastructure to run these tests next month.


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