^ she learns best if (1) test challenged and (2) visited at home by her teacher(s)

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Last week we learned that the standard test our state requires of all students will not be the test known as PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of readiness for College and Careers) but something else : evidently, a compromise between features of the PARCC and those of the MCAS test that Massachusetts has used for twenty years.

We support the PARCC test. Before we explain why, we invite you to visit the PARCC website and learn about its features for yourself : http://www.parcconline.org/

You can even try out PARCC practice tests here : http://www.parcconline.org/assessments/practice-tests

Having visited the website and worked some practice PARCC tests, you’ve probably developed some grasp of why the PARCC tests have attracted support from educators. The practice Grade 11 English test that I took, for example, required me to read the two novel excerpts carefully and to demonstrate a thorough grasp of what the authors were trying to tell the reader. (The two novels excerpted were ones that even I, a professional writer and well read student all my life,m had not read. This I am sure was intentional. You cannot test for comprehension by offering up a novel that we’ve all read 100 times.) I found the test challenging. That’s what a preparedness test should be.

As the PARCC Website says, Many current state tests measure only lower-level skills. The new assessments serve as an “educational GPS system,” assess students’ current performance, and point the way to what students need to learn by graduation so they are ready for college and/or a career.

Some object to a test that is difficult for almost all students. I feel exactly opposite. A test should be difficult enough that no student can get a perfect score. how else are we to test students in comparison to one another, than to challenge them all, beyond their capability ?  To find the tensile strength of an elastic, you have to stretch it.

Some do not like PARCC because it demands more than the minimum curriculum known as “Common Core. You can learn what the Common, Core Curriculum entails by visiting its website here : http://www.corestandards.org/ I support the common, core curriculum, because no student, no matter where she lives, should fulfill the same minimum knowledge learning. Major employers hire from every state in the nation; we cannot allow students in one state to be disqualified from hiring because they lacked a national minimum education.

By no means should education be limited to the minimum standard proposed by the makers of the Common, Core curriculum. Massachusetts rightly demands more. So should all states, if possible. The PARCC test meets that challenge. So9 why are we “developing our own standards” ? I really do not know. What appears to be the decision of our State Board of Education is a compromise between the MCAS test adhering to the Common, core curriculum and the much more demanding PARCC test. This is a step in the wrong direction. Many Massachusetts school districts have adopted the PARCC test as its standard; Boston among them. Now this adoption has to wait another two years for a final decision.

Every school achievement discussion of testing and standards also brings up, sooner or later, parental involvement. This is the arena in which school administrators should be ramping up their performance. No teacher can do her job if she also has to be a kind of day care provider to students whose parent or parents send him or her to school just to have some peace for the day. Schools must see that parents commit to supporting the education of their child.

To that end, home visits by teachers probably are the single most important support that we can give to educational achievement. In Massachusetts that sort of connection is being accomplished by 1647,org,m a non  profit set up by former Mayor candidate John Connolly. His staff develop teacher home visit programs that are transforming the learning experience for children visited at home by their teachers.

The home visit program, joined to the rigorous PARCC Test, offers a pathway to closing the “achievement gap” as well as preparing students the skills needed for entry level employment in today’s economy. If we do nothing else by way of education policy, we absolutely must do at least this much.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere