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Parents worry about students sharpening typing skills instead of No. 2 pencils with PARCC

For many audience members at the Cherry Hill Public Schools’ first public discussion of PARCC, the new standardized assessment for New Jersey public school students, they remember the days of filling in bubbles with their No. 2 pencil to answer multiple choice test questions.

Some are not happy those days are now gone.

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Dozens of parents and other community members attended last week’s PARCC primer with many questions about the new assessment. For many, those questions revolved around the new test-taking method. With PARCC being taken entirely on a computer, Cherry Hill Assistant Superintendent Joe Meloche said technology has been the biggest concern for parents.

One of the biggest questions has been whether the district has the technology to run the test. Meloche said the district is confident after it successfully participated in the field test last year. He said the field test went smoothly, with no major hiccups from a technological standpoint.

“It gave us a much better picture into our technological infrastructure,” Meloche said.

Glitches weren’t the main concern for Kara Edens, the parent of a third-grader. Edens feels children in third grade don’t have the adequate keyboarding skills to perform some of the written portions of the test.

“I’m really worried about her ability to type an essay,” Edens said.

A lack of familiarity with technology put some audience members on edge during the presentation. Meloche said some of the most common concerns parents have raised are about a student’s stress level with using the technology and whether the testing time will be long enough for students struggling with the interface. Based on observations from the field test, administrators don’t think either will be an issue.

“We believe there is more than ample time for the typically-developing child to take the test,” Meloche said.

For students who may struggle with test taking or with using the computers, the district acknowledged it can look into alternative solutions to allow them to succeed.

“Our role as administrators is to make them as prepared as possible,” Meloche said.

Edens still wishes the children had the option to take the test on paper.

“The essays are going to be read by people anyway, so why can’t they just write it?” Edens asked.

Beyond the technological aspect, many people came to the session with basic questions about what PARCC was and how it differed from the former NJASK assessment.

Prior to the event, people were asked to gauge how familiar they were with PARCC. About two-thirds of the participants admitted they had “limited” knowledge about the assessment. This answer was the impetus behind the discussion series.

“It’s incumbent upon us to tell people what exactly it is,” Meloche said.

At the end of the presentation, all members in the audience said in a follow-up survey their PARCC knowledge had improved to “moderate” or “familiar.”

Those who were unable to attend last week’s PARCC primer can view the presentation at www.cherryhill.k12.nj.us.

The three-part series will continue on Feb. 3 and 4 with the discussion centered on test-taking time. On April 21 and 23, the final part of the series will look at the scoring process. All members of the Cherry Hill community are invited to the sessions.

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