No walk in the PARCC…

Posted on February 2, 2013

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http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/ReadingAccessCalculatorAccommodationsPublicCommentDocumentFINAL.pdf

PARCC stands for the “Partnership fo Assessment of REadiness for College and Careers.”

I spend most of my working week providing academic support to students who, for myriad reasons, have myriad small and big gaps in their “readiness” for college. I have nothing against placement tests to a point; I couldn’t spend my days pretending to help people in courses they don’t have the tools to succeed in, and students are generally worse judges of their preparedness than our assessments.

I also have somewhat mixed feelings about accommodations. If you’re taking a reading test and the material is read to you, then that test is *not* measuring your ability to independently pick up printed text and get meaning from it. Even more so, if you’re given a math test to measure your skills in calculating things, if you use a calculator I have no idea what you really know. (I have more issues with this one because of the students who I see who honestly believe “math” is about punching keys, passing a test and then getting back to LIfe Avoiding Numbers At All Costs, thank you!)

However, the fact is that many people can and do succeed in college courses with accommodations for reading. Text-to-speech and audio books can free up the struggling reader to actually think about the content. Yet, the proposed accommodation eligibility criteria state that The student must be a virtual non-reader (i.e., at the beginning stages of learning to decode), not simply reading below grade level. If they’ve ***ever*** been expected to access printed text without accommodations, sorry. SO — they’re better off not learning anything. Don’t dare *try* to teach ’em to read.

What a crock of sewage. Let’s throw up a wall for the folks who are struggling to figure out the words, whether because nobody’s taught them because that’s how their schools roll, or they’re wired so that it’s a major cognitive hassle but — too bad! — they’re smart enough to get through simple stuff.

Math is equally draconian. If you are able to calculate single digit numbers, then … you’re not eligible. If you’re *ever* expected to do math without a calculator, you’re out of luck. If your IEP doesn’t specifically outline just how you can’t can’t can’t…

An assessment is supposed to measure what you know. This will prevent that from happening. THe cost of poor performance, too, will throw even *more* barriers in the way of people who are trying to move forward and keep learning.

This reeks of politics. In abject fear that some folks will get accommodations they “don’t deserve,” we’ll take them away from just about everybody. I think we should apply the same logic to these folks… ,and on the next bike ride I’ll see if I can dream up ways to do that. In the meantime, I”m going to respond to the proposed accommodations document by going to http://www.parcconline.org/open-policies-public-comment and scrolling down to the link on that page that says “Please click HERE for the full draft accommodation policies for reading access and calculators for students with disabilities”

and locate the link to a brief online survey that PARCC has provided as a means to gather public comment and pick “no. ” And … I’ve written my assorted comments in there…

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