The Maryland State Department of Education recently announced that the high school assessments taken by many students will have no bearing on graduation the next two years. This is due to what is seen as a necessary transition period from the Maryland High School Assessment to the more rigorous Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The PARCC test is expected to be ready for the 2016-2017 academic year.
In 2009, the Maryland HSA, or the High School Assessments, consisted of tests for English II, Biology, Algebra I and, in 2013, Government. Passing these tests was needed for graduation. However, it seems the HSA has not been seen as the best way to prepare students for life after high school as it has been set to be replaced by the PARCC.
The PARCC is a collaboration between twelve states and D.C. to closely adhere to the Common Core State Standards set throughout the country. Established in 2010, the Partnership originally had the support of twenty-three states as well as D.C., but as of 2014, that number has decreased to twelve, with states such as Florida and Pennsylvania opting out.
The assessment, which only tests math and English, is broken into two sections: the Performance-Based Assessment and the End-of-Year Assessment, the former of which many La Plata High School students have taken at the start of the year; the latter will be taken toward the end. Contrary to the HSA’s numerous multiple choice questions, the PARCC contains more free-response and stimulus questions, or text and graphic-based questions. In addition to the PARCC, Charles County post-assessments will be taken at the end of the third quarter as 10 percent of the total grade, adding even more to many students’ workload.
Many students last year participated in the field testing for the assessment, but so far it has received mostly negative reviews.
A student who took the test last year as a freshman said, “The PARCC is not any better than the HSA to test students. The PARCC’s analysis may get you thinking more, but it could prove more difficult if it’s needed as a requirement.”
These sentiments are shared by La Plata English teacher Mrs. Lisa Qualters. Mrs. Qualters said, “It’s a step in the right direction, but we’re not ready to transition into more writing yet. We need time to adapt, and we can’t assume that we’ve hit all the major points before we do.”
The PARCC replacing the HSA has been met with mixed reviews, but only time will tell if the results in the end justify the means.