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Letter to the editor 3-18-15

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Superintendent Schmidt
addresses PARCC concerns

On March 11, a group of Los Alamos High School students met for half an hour after school in the Los Alamos High School lobby to provide information to the public about their concerns for next week’s state test, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
PARCC, as it is known to students and staff, replaces previous years’ Standards Based Assessment.
This marks the first year of the PARCC test, which is a part of the New Mexico state graduation requirements. While there are alternatives ways to demonstrate proficiency, high school students must first attempt achieving proficiency on the PARCC test before alternative demonstrations of competency are allowed.
In addition, the newly introduced PARCC test presents an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of the New Mexico Common Core State Standards, as well as demonstrate readiness for college and careers. Students at the information forum met with their high school peers, staff, school administration and some community members to share concerns about the upcoming PARCC tests.
Several themes emerged from my one-on-one and small group conversations with students, including:
• PARCC adds stress by interrupting their current schoolwork at a time when upcoming end-of-year tests are already on their minds.
• Concern the PARCC test will not be a learning experience because they won’t get to revisit problems that are answered incorrectly or chose not to be answered.
• Belief the test unfairly impacts teachers and the high school as the results from PARCC may have an impact on the teacher/school report cards/summative evaluations.
• Concern that in this first year of PARCC testing, students do not know what a passing score for proficiency is.
• Concern about taking an online test by some who feel they perform better on a paper/pencil test.
As a school system and community, I would like to thank the students for sharing their concerns. Their ideas, which have merit, were presented in an articulate and compelling fashion. I will do what I can to carry their message to the New Mexico Public Education Department and our state legislators.
Meanwhile, despite students’ apprehension regarding the PARCC examination, I encourage our students to participate in the testing process. Information gathered helps educators understand what students know and can do which guides the curriculum-building process. This in turn helps us better prepare students for college and careers which ensures our students will be eligible to attend the best colleges/universities or make them as prepared as possible for the career of their choice.
At the end of the day, we know that this test is one small measure of what our students can do. We see the full measure of their potential in so many other ways on a daily basis.
Rest assured, we will continue to offer opportunities for our students to become well-rounded, lifelong learners.

Gene Schmidt
Superintendent of Schools