Friday, March 13, 2015

A Farmer takes math to the Capitol.

Last week I had the opportunity to take the 6th grade math test most states require called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (better known as PARCC).

Now I consider myself higher than average when it comes to math.  As a farmer, on a regular basis I am calculating costs, production and profit, and quite often, loss.  Problem solving with numbers is a skill required for most of us in agriculture, and most of the time we calculate our figures while sitting on a tractor or driving a truck. 

So when I was taking the PARCC test, I was shocked that even though I chose the correct answers, I lost almost half my score because I didn’t “show my work” the way that PARCC requires in their grading rubrics.

I had some trouble understanding how to maneuver within the software and was told that a teacher cannot help during the testing.  Hmmm… so how do the students figure this out?

It appears teachers waste valuable time teaching kids how to use the software, and then how to “show their work,” which is acceptable according to the rubrics.  There is no better example of “teaching to the test” and what the students are learning during this instruction time is worthless information for their future.

When I got frustrated with a silly question I was tempted to just hit the forward arrow and skip the rest of the test.  If an adult taking this test wants to skip a problem, I can only imagine what a 6th grader would do if they became annoyed.


In Saturday’s Washington Post, 16-year-old sophomore Marina Ford from Pinelands Regional High School in Tuckerton, New Jersey, told her own experience with the PARCC test. 

 “We took the Algebra 2 PARCC pretest in class,” said the honor student taking Advanced Placement classes.  “I am ranked at the top of my class and I couldn’t answer one question on this pretest.”
She continued, “These PARCC exams have done nothing but mess with my valuable class time and significantly lower my confidence in my competence as a student.”

As school districts prepare to meet the testing requirements over the next two to three months, the focus of educators in this last quarter is no longer the teaching of our children. This testing is mandated by the state in order to receive federal education funding.

I have yet to talk to a teacher or school district that uses this specific assessment in order to improve education.  Education professionals I’ve talked to prefer tests such as Northwestern Evaluation Association (NWEA), which gives immediate recommendations as to what changes in curriculum and instruction are warranted in order to improve student achievement.

Don’t get me wrong--testing is important and there should be some measure of the successes and failures of each school and student.  I would prefer to have school boards, their administrators and the parents hold the schools accountable rather than bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

Senator Sonnenberg is a farmer/rancher from Sterling and represents District 1 including the counties of Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Weld, Yuma.

Thank You,

Jerry Sonnenberg
Colorado Senator
  4465 CR 63
  Sterling, CO 80751
  970-581-8648
www.ElectSonnenberg.com

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