September 3, 2016

How federal testing obsession screwed DC high school students

Washington Post - As parents, community leaders and school officials puzzled over the precipitous drop in standardized test scores at one of the District’s leading public high schools, Emma Buzbee had a logical explanation.

Buzbee, a senior at Wilson High School, said she and other high-performing students either refused to take the test or intentionally flubbed it to focus on Advanced Placement tests, which were being given the following week.

A high score on the AP exam can strengthen a college application, earn a student college credit and exempt them from certain required college courses. The standardized test administered by the District, on the other hand, has no effect on students.

But that test, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), is used to judge the performance of schools and, starting next year, to evaluate teachers. Which means the PARCC exam carries high stakes for teachers and school officials and no stakes for students.

When Buzbee realized that the review session for AP Chemistry at Wilson High was scheduled last spring at the same time as the PARCC, she felt she had little choice.

“Chemistry was such a difficult subject for me, and the AP exam is very strenuous,” Buzbee said. “Me and a lot of people in my class decided not to take the exam and go to the review instead. There was never any explicit reason we were given about why we were supposed to take the [PARCC] exam.”

Buzbee said she never intended to create problems for her school.

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