The release of this year’s PARCC test scores came when most people’s attention was turned toward politics and baseball. For parents of school-age kids, though, it’s worthwhile to take another look at the test our children’s schools spent so much time administering last spring. After getting the results, we should ask: Is the time and money we invest in this test worth it?

For me, the answer is a resounding no. I refused the test last year on behalf of my then-third-grade son. I did not reach this decision lightly. I am a former District 97 teacher (8 years at Julian), who moved to Oak Park to send my three children to its schools. I wholeheartedly support my children’s teachers — and to me, the best way to show that support is to protest the PARCC.


The PARCC is more than eight hours long. It was shortened slightly last year, but this year the district’s website says it will be 495 minutes in the third grade, rising to a whopping 550 minutes by grades 6-8. By comparison, the SAT is 3 hours 50 minutes; the bar exam is six hours. If we can determine in six hours whether someone is qualified to practice law, surely we don’t need eight hours to find out if my 9-year-old can read and do math.

It interrupts the school day for seven sessions over two weeks. The testing minutes listed above do not count the many minutes spent preparing for, and concluding each of, the seven testing sessions. Students are usually not assigned homework during the testing window, essentially making their learning grind to a halt. 

The results are not timely enough to be useful. My son’s fourth-grade teachers are just now finding out what their students were capable of six months ago in third grade. These results are far too late to assist with any instructional decisions.   

It doesn’t give us any new information about our kids. The district already administers the MAP test twice (six hours total in three sessions per year), as well as the COGAT and DIBELS in younger grades, so they have timely information about our students’ math and reading ability. As for the Common Core standards, teachers assess those in class constantly. Teachers can’t even see which questions their students missed on the PARCC, so there is no useful information for them.

Preparing for it is distorting our curriculum and taking class time. Given the high-stakes, public nature of the test, teachers and administrators have virtually no choice but to spend class time preparing. But as any teacher knows, practicing test-taking strategy is not the same as learning. Test score increases, while laudable, should be the incidental byproduct of excellent teaching. They should not be the goal.

I want my children’s teachers to be able to do their jobs well. The best way for a teacher to know my children’s strengths, interests, and weaknesses isn’t to give them an endless test. It’s to spend all day with them in the classroom, engaging in real learning experiences. This is what they do — except when the PARCC gets in their way.

I will continue to refuse the PARCC unless it is far shorter, more timely, and no longer tied to high-stakes consequences for schools and teachers. Next spring, when we replace two valuable weeks of learning with a crushingly long test, let’s ask ourselves: Is this worth it?

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