READ THIS! A walk in the PARCC?

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There’s a new test in town, and it’s coming to your school. Hopefully by now you have heard that MCAS is out, and PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) is in. Next month, all third- through eighth-grade students will begin testing in math and English Language Arts. By June, students will have spent up to eight days testing (10th graders will still take MCAS).

Consider a guideline from Tisbury School principal, John Custer: “It is important to keep in mind that schools use a variety of assessments, and PARCC is just one.”

Mr. Custer adds, “Because this is new, especially for our younger students, we are focusing on the process as opposed to solely the results in the early going.”

So please, look at a wide and deep picture of your child. Talk to her teachers, observe her growth in many areas at home. Unfortunately, schools, politicians, and taxpayers across the nation have put too much stock in these tests, and it can cause a lot of undue anxiety. Of course we want our children to do well in life. Who doesn’t? But keep in mind why the tests were created, by whom, and for what purpose.

Check out this excellent source, standardizedtests.procon.org, and decide for yourself. Is standardized testing useful?

What can you do to help your child prepare?

Our Island is blessed with top-notch educators who care deeply about children and their learning. If you haven’t already touched base with your child’s teacher, stop in, send an email, or give her a call to set up a time to talk. Find out how your child is doing in class, and how you can help her approach the tests confidently and comfortably.

Next, don’t make a big deal about the tests with your child. They can be a source of stress and anxiety. No one performs well under stress. Keep it positive, and be a cheerleader here and there. When the topic arises, remind her that all you expect is for her to give it her best effort, as in every other aspect of life.

Practically speaking, during the testing days (and every day), be sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and eats a full, healthy breakfast. The brain cannot function at maximum effort without being rested and well-fed. Protein is a brain booster and offers sustained energy. Cheese, nuts and seeds, sliced meats, and legumes are all great sources. Sneak in nutritional goodies in a smoothie — your child will never know!

Remind your child to take her time, do the easy questions first, reread questions and text carefully, scan for answers or evidence, restate the question asked when responding in writing, double-check calculations, and use process of elimination for multiple-choice questions.

Unlike with MCAS, for most children PARCC will be completed on a computer rather than paper. This may not seem like a big deal, but for younger children, especially those who are less agile in navigating the computer for typing, scrolling, highlighting, and interpreting online directions, this will be a very different experience. Another difference is that PARCC will be asking for evidence for answers. It’s actually a separate question in many instances. Rereading, dissecting questions carefully, and monitoring thinking are important here. The good news is that all of these skills are being taught daily in school, and you can reinforce them at home during homework or nightly reading time. For example, ask your child a question about a character or the plot in her book, but also ask her to give you a detail from the book to support her reasoning.

You can familiarize yourself with PARCC at parcconline.org.

If you follow these suggestions, hopefully it will be a walk in the park for your child. “I am curious to see the reaction to PARCC, on the Vineyard and statewide,” Mr. Custer said.

Deb Dunn is the literacy coordinator at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School: ddunn@mvpcs.org.