LAPS Superintendent Addresses PARCC Testing

By GENE SCHMIDT, Superintendent
Los Alamos Public Schools

Open Letter to the Community,

Los Alamos Public Schools will soon begin testing students in grades three through 11 on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC).

This will mark the first year this test has been administered in our community. The purpose of the assessment is to help determine our students’ understanding of the Common Core State Standards in reading, language arts and mathematics as well as provide data about our students’ college and career readiness. For example, a fifth grade student who demonstrates proficiency on the PARCC assessment is viewed as on a path to college and career ready.

In the past, the annual assessment was known as the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment (SBA), which was administered over a two week testing window. In contrast to SBA that students took in the past, the PARCC will be taken online. Students in Chamisa and Mountain elementaries will be the first to participate in the PARCC testing. Other schools in the district will soon follow.

PARCC will be administered in two phases. As such, students in grades 3-11 will be assessed in three tests in English Language Arts and two tests in mathematics in March. In April, students in grades 3-11 will take two end-of-year tests in English Language Arts and two end-of-year in mathematics.

As students and parents look ahead to the start of the test window, it is important to understand that test units are scheduled in increments of 60 to 90 minutes depending on the test. Rather than the 9 hours of testing in a day that some media groups are reporting, the test window is broken into shorter more manageable durations per day. This effort to minimize test taking time enhances classroom instruction time.

Another notable difference between the SBA and PARCC is that the upcoming assessment will be timed. In contrast, the SBA test students took in the past allowed for extended test taking time, the PARCC does not allow for extended time.

As mentioned in the beginning of this letter, it is important for parents and students to remember this assessment has value in determining understanding of Common Core State Standards and whether or not a student is on a college and career trajectory. The PARCC is intended to be a high quality assessment that measures what students know and can do. As such, this assessment data becomes important in developing and implementing an educational plan which allows teachers to adjust instruction in ways that lead to even greater student achievement. For more information, parents can view the link to learn more about the test.

 It is important to understand the PARCC performance of students will impact teachers, principals and school report cards next year as this year’s assessment will be linked to future evaluation processes. For example, if fewer than 95 percent of students participate in the PARCC at the classroom level, a teacher’s performance rating will be impacted in the form of a lowered summative evaluation. The same is true for a school. If student participation falls below 95 percent, the overall school report card rating will be lowered.

I ask that our students in grades 3-11 be given the opportunity to participate in the PARCC. This assessment becomes an investment in their future as information gleaned for test data will help shape our educational program. In today’s competitive college and career fields where our graduates compete against students from around the world, we want our children to be the best prepared.

In closing, I would ask that this assessment be used as an opportunity to learn more about what your child knows and can do. The academic information gained from participation creates a baseline from which future learning of your child can be designed.