I am a teacher in the state of NJ, where we currently give the PARCC exam (although our new governor says we are going to move away from it. In this post I am going to refrain from my opinions of the actual test, but I will quickly mention that I understand both sides of the debate about the test. Regardless of my thought, it is a test my students have to take, and although I don’t “teach to the test”, I do try to give my students tools they need to succeed in their math classes in the future and also on any standardized test they may cross during the educational journey.
The majority of my students are in Algebra 1, therefore they take the Algebra 1 PARCC exam. In NJ passing this exam is a graduation requirement, which adds another level of stress and importance to the exam. During the exam the students have an embedded graphing calculator available to them, and this is where my objection occurs. The graphing calculator offered to them is a TI – 84 plus silver edition . This is calculator is very similar to the graphing calculator I used in high school and college over 20 years ago….still featuring all those amazing pixels!! Why would PARCC choose this calculator???? There are several online graphing calculators that are far superior to the one offered on the PARCC, my favorite being Desmos. Desmos is a much more intuitive tool to use, has much better resolution, has more features, and also has accessibility features for students who need them.
Below is the graph of the same equation in both Desmos and using the TI calculator provided on PARCC. First of all, which one is more visually appealing? Also, I would like to point out that on Desmos you can see both the equation and the graph on the screen, TI it is 2 separate screens. In addition the tools and interactions with the equations and graphs are far more intuitive with Desmos. There are many other benefits to using the Desmos calculator….too many to mention in this forum.
One of the most frustrating aspects of PARCC’s decision on the graphing calculator is the related cost to the schools and the students. The cost of these TI calculators is around $100, which seems like a high amount considering that over the last 20 years that haven’t improved their technology much. Not only is Desmos a free website, but is also has a free app available for all devices. It is amazing to me that schools and students have to spend around $100 for a graphing calculator, when there is a far better tool for free. If PARCC changed its choice of graphing calculator is could be using a better tool, and could save the schools and students its testing money.
If you or somebody you know works for PARCC, TestNav, or Pearson and would like to discuss this, please reach out to me. If you are a NJ teacher or administrator let the DOE or PARCC directly know that their choice of graphing calculator is UNACCEPTABLE!