Dear Osprey Families,
On Monday, March 16th, we will begin administering PARCC exams to our students.  PARCC is Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a multi-state consortium Colorado joined in 2012, and the PARCC tests are computer-based assessments in Math and Language Arts/Literacy.  PARCC exams are designed to help teachers, schools, students and parents determine whether students are on track in their learning for success after high school, and to assess mastery of updated Colorado Academic Standards.  We are mandated to administer the tests as a public school in Colorado, where they have taken the place of the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP).
We recognize that there is a healthy debate in Colorado and nationally about standardized testing and we absolutely understand that people have strong opinions on the matter.  Some families are choosing to opt out of PARCC, and we respect your right to make that choice.  In fact, many of us on staff at Animas are parents who are weighing this decision for our own kids.  We want to share information with you about the tests and we encourage you to do further research as well, so that you feel confident in making an informed decision.
We are administering PARCC because we are required to do so; in addition the data they generate may be helpful to us.  First, PARCC exams might help us see how individual students are doing and how we are performing as a school.  We see these tests as just one data point among many that help us measure what students are learning at Animas.  Second, PARCC and other standardized test scores are used to determine our rating from CSI, our authorizer.  We have earned “Performance with Distinction” rating from CSI for the past two years primarily because our students have done really well on standardized tests.
The schedule for PARCC testing at AHS is as follows:

  • 9th grade: March 16-20 and April 27-May 1
  • 10th grade: March 16-20 and May 4-8
  • 11th grade: March 30-April 3 and May 4-8

Each student will have about ten to twenty hours of testing time, total, between now and the end of the year, unless they have already completed Algebra 2, in which case total testing time will be closer to five to ten hours, since they will only take the Language Arts exam.  The tests in the earlier weeks (Performance-Based Assessment or PBA) are designed to assess different skills than those in later weeks (End-of-Year Assessment or EOY).
We will not change our daily schedule during PARCC testing weeks with the exception of canceling PEAK Meetings and using our regular schedule on Wednesdays.  During the testing weeks, teachers will plan lessons with the understanding that students will be pulled out to take the tests.  This means we’ll see lots of project work time and enrichment activities during  testing weeks, so that students who are testing will not fall behind.
We are not using class time in advance of PARCC to do practice tests as we are confident in our knowledge that Animas teachers think deeply about skills and content and refer to State Standards and Common Core when planning their curriculum.  We believe that we prepare students to do well on standardized tests by having high standards for rigor in our classes, and scores in the past support this.  Practice PARCC tests are readily available online if students would like to get a preview of what to expect.
PARCC scores will not be recorded on student transcripts and there will not be negative repercussions for any student who opts out.  Students who opt out should plan to come to school and will attend their regularly scheduled classes during testing weeks.
Frankly, it’s unclear what the potential consequences to us, as a school, will be if large numbers of students opt out, as this issue is being debated at the state level and it’s shifting daily.  According to the Colorado Department of Education, “On Feb. 18, 2015, the state board of education adopted a motion to not hold districts liable for the decisions of parents who do not allow their children to take the PARCC-developed tests in English language arts and math. Effective immediately, districts will not be penalized by a lowering of their accreditation rating or school rating should their student participation rates fall below 95 percent due to parent refusals.”  That said, it is still possible that lower participation rates will negatively impact our CSI rating, which could lead to greater oversight and less autonomy for us as a school and which may make it more challenging for us to get grants and other funding we need.  Again, we do not know what the potential impact will be if a large group of our students opt out, and we do not wish to push families one way or the other; we simply ask that you make an informed decision.
If, after weighing the issue, you choose to opt out of the PARCC tests, please complete the PARCC Opt Out waiver Form and return it to Laurel Rodd at the front desk by March 13th.
There are many rich conversations to be had around the usefulness of standardized tests as a way to measure student growth, and we are deeply engaged in those conversations as professional educators.  We recognize the responsibility we have to ensure that all students at Animas are learning and growing in meaningful ways, and we are grateful to have a team of thoughtful, dedicated, passionate teachers who design their curriculum and assessment strategies with innovation, rigor and relevance in mind.
Thank you for engaging in the process with us as we all work together to support our students.