February 28, 2015

The PARCC Test Conquest

“The PARCC Test Conquest”

Looking back at memories stirs melancholy feelings, especially when looking back at the United States’ history of leadership in education. This country was once the harbinger in education reform, naturally slipping into its role as the international model for education. Out of the 34 countries participating in the 2012 international PISA education proficiency exam, the United States is in the shameful positions of 27th in mathematics, 20th in science, and 17th in reading. Worst of all, our performances are on par with those of the Russian Federation, Hungary, Croatia, and the Slovak Republic.

I think that we, as a nation, can agree that it is paramount that we climb back to our rightful position as number one. America began as number one and it is our right --- nay, our duty --- to preserve and protect our number one status. We have entered wars, from the space race to the Iraq War, to prove that we are superior, number one, and we must now enter the education war.
The key strategy in our period of mobilization is to prepare the students who will serve as soldiers for the educational system. While education systems vary from state to state, there is one tool that ensures that our soldiers will meet the expected level of performance for war: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. “PARCC” --- other countries will shudder at the sound of this secret weapon.
PARCC will administer a standardized test to all soldiers, from the third grade privates to the eleventh grade sergeants. Most tests are outdated and test classroom skills, but PARCC offers the chance to solve real-world math problems, because it is important to be able to find the angle at which sunlight reaches a flower. Furthermore, I am assured that hearing tests are no longer needed, for all students will demonstrate speaking and listening proficiency through the PARCC test; this tool is the perfect replacement for the hearing test that nurses administer at schools, saving both time and money on expensive hearing tests. Granted, financial issues pose technological conflicts for a few districts, but PARCC is only hastening the process of natural evolution: technology will ultimately dominate all aspects of life, and survival of the fittest will determine which school districts survive.
Out of the generosity of PARCC, any state can join and administer its tests. Like a club, there are two ranks: governing and participating. States who simply are not passionate enough about the benefits of money and power to commit and make the governing status are demoted to the participating status and are considered as “honorary members”. Currently, a hefty number of 19 states and the Virgin Islands are governing members, and soon enough, the whole world will want membership to the highly-esteemed club that boasts the benefits of wealth and power. With increased popularity, the PARCC empire will enlargen by making its test a college entrance exam, and become analogous to “College Board”, only with a better sounding, kid and dog-friendly name. The $186 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education is a decent start, but as the PARCC conquest continues, PARCC will grow and be able to sponsor more governors to join, further contributing to its domination.
Clearly, the key tool that will test the readiness of the soldiers before entering the international war of education is PARCC. Firstly, PARCC tests are composed of real-world problems, connecting classroom knowledge to realistic conflicts. Secondly, it is a financially superior alternative to expensive hearing tests. Thirdly, the government is given an insight into which districts will survive in the future through their technological readiness, and be able to allocate more money to those who will prevail. Ultimately, the PARCC test ensures that the training received in schools meet the requirements of the test, because that is the objective of education. Those who do not allocate time to focus on preparing for the test will fail, reaping the shame of inhibiting America’s quest to reclaim its number one status.
Unfortunately, my child is already a twelfth grader and too old to benefit from PARCC, but it is not too late for the rest of the nation. In the spirit of patriotism, we must all support PARCC if America is to be number one once more.

*Disclaimer: this is a satire essay I wrote for my AP Lang class (modeled after Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal") :) I was pretty happy with my essay, so I wanted to share it here! Honestly, I do not think the PARCC test is a good idea. Education should not be centered around tests; I really do believe that the PARCC test will become analogous to the SAT?ACT and is simply a money-making scheme. I have several friends who were "guinea pigs" and took this test last year and they said it was incredibly hard; how on earth are they supposed to administer this test to third graders?! The questions are worded in such an arcane & obscure way that the student simply just gets confused (think about a little third grader getting confused and feeling stupid because of that when it's really the test that isn't right!). The United State's ranking on proficiency exams is low, but you must also consider the fact that it's an average of all of the scores from each state. Education is under states' rights, therefore each state has its own education policy. Quite frankly, some states, like Massachusetts and New Jersey, are very successful and are on par (or nearly on par) with the education of higher ranking countries on the PISA, such as Canada and Finland. On the other hand, there are many other states who score significantly lower, even lower than Croatia. 

If the government wants to improve the ranking of students on international exams, they must take a look at where education inequality starts at: money. Of course a core curriculum that unites education from various states may seem beneficial, but education starts right when you're a baby. Wealthier families have the opportunities to send their children to daycare centers where their children are stimulated; this early stimulation is crucial for cognitive development; less fortunate families can't afford these costly daycare centers and sit their children in front of TVs, where they're simply not going to get the same mental stimulation. Right from this start, the wealthier kids already have a major advantage. Money also strikes a problem when it comes to district resources. Most public school districts rely from property taxes to fund their schools; areas with wealthier families who can afford to pay higher property taxes are going to have much more money to invest in their education compared to areas with poorer families. The government needs to allocate resources targeted to these areas who are struggling financially so that they have the same resources as the wealthier districts. It's not fair to compare the performance levels of students in districts if one has an exponentially greater amount of resources and materials than the other.

xoxo, han

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