Stupid PARCC Tricks

Entertainer 5Tuesday night’s More Than a Score Forum was great. CPS parents Julie Fain, Chris Ball, and Sherise McDaniel, and teachers Michelle Strater Gunderson (CPS) and Paul Horton (U of Chicago Lab School), powerfully covered topics including testing and school closings, alternative assessment, opting out, and Common Core. Thanks also to Carolyn Brown who emceed.

Chris’s presentation on sample questions from the PARCC Common Core tests was a highlight – both in Chris’s humorous presentation and in the amazing absurdity of the questions themselves which, as Chris pointed out, are the ones they WANT us to see. (PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which is the consortium that is writing the Common Core tests Illinois will use beginning next year.)

Everyone at the forum felt that more people need to see the sample questions and judge for themselves whether these are the “better tests” that Education Secretary Arne Duncan promised us.

The example I will share today is a simple one. A third-grade test includes a story about creatures who were having a bad day. It includes this sentence: “And they were cross — oh so cross!” One question asks what the word “cross” means in the story. The choices are:

a) excited

b) lost

c) upset

d) scared.

Here’s how dictionary.com defines the adjective “cross”: “angry and annoyed; ill-humored; snappish: Don’t be cross with me. Synonyms: petulant, fractious, irascible, waspish, crabbed, churlish, sulky, cantankerous, cranky, ill-tempered, impatient, irritable, fretful, touchy, testy.”

Apparently the wanted answer is “upset,” which does not appear as any of the choices above. It’s just not a very good synonym for “cross.”

But third graders are supposed to choose a “right” answer that the dictionary doesn’t even suggest.

Don’t even get me started on the Pinkerton Pig fiasco. Check out Chris’s PARCC PowerPoint here.

Better tests? Makes me feel kind of “testy.”

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.