Students at Las Cruces Public School protest PARCC.
A combination of technological difficulties, scarce preparation and confusion about WW-P’s opt-out policy has provoked a wave of action among North students: widespread unwillingness to answer PARCC questions to the best of their abilities.
Although less than two percent of WW-P’s eligible test takers have officially opted out of the PARCC, an assessment designed to test skills aligned with the Common Core State Standards, many students taking the exam have found other ways to circumvent the test—by simply not answering the questions properly. “I don’t plan on taking the test seriously,” sophomore Akash Anand said.
In the language arts portion of the PARCC, some students said they wrote one-sentence responses, promotions of their new mixtapes and essays in Spanish. Junior Rijo Urakath said the PARCC “doesn’t give me much incentive to try and do my best,” since it won’t affect students until the class of 2019 reaches junior year.
Administrators encouraged students to give the test their best effort. “Mr. Zapicchi has been giving a little bit of a speech to encourage students to do their best,” said Vice Principal Peter James, who fears that the district won’t get actionable data if students don’t try their best.
The district allows students who finish the day’s testing early to return to class or study hall. “It’s hard for me to watch students walk out very quickly, but I understand,” James added.
Other students complained of a lack of communication from teachers in preparing for the exam. “Teachers could only tell us it was electronic and the days we would be testing,” Urakath said. “They either didn’t know anything else, which is a strong possibility, or they might not have been allowed to inform students on specifics.” North language arts teacher Denise O’Hare said she and several other teachers in the department tried to clarify misconceptions about the test during class. But teachers were not permitted to address specific queries during the exam, or even to look at students’ computer screens.
Several students interviewed for this article said they consider the PARCC a waste of class time, with some saying they considered formally refusing the test. WW-P’s opt-out policy allows students who refuse the exam to read in the back of the testing room. However, the district did not release a written statement clarifying its policy, creating confusion among students. “I didn’t know it was as easy as emailing the principal,” said junior Rohan Patlola, who didn’t opt out.
Junior Morgan Hendry said she decided to opt out, despite rumors that tests refusals might cost the district funding. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, districts in which fewer than 95 percent of students take the state-mandated standardized test face corrective action.
Not every student decided to tank the PARCC or opt out entirely. “I’m using it as SAT practice,” junior Shree Kale said. “I didn’t go through it randomly.”
But other students say they’d rather devote their energy to more important academic work. “It isn’t something that counts,” sophomore Anuraag Visweswaran said. “Which makes me wonder, do I prioritize my classes or a test that doesn’t matter?”