Wednesday, December 17, 2014

“Get Ready for Success by Failure”: Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)

Between now and the end of the school year, my students will be subjected to at least 25 hours of standardized testing, including the PARCC, which accounts for about 16 hours of the total. This excessive, unnecessary testing is not in the best interest of children, the teachers, the district, or the taxpayers. 

This is guaranteed to interfere with real learning opportunities and experiences for students. And as we all know, standardized testing should only be used as a tool to inform instruction; it’s not reliable as a measure of student growth or teacher proficiency.

All of this, as you know, is a corrupt, tangled web that in the end will affect ALL of us, active or retired.  As public schools are shuttered because they are “failing” and teachers are forced to work outside of the TRS system, we will all be affected.

What is being done to stop the implementation of the PARCC in Illinois? What is being done to “prevent PARCC results for the next several years from being used as accountability measures for students, educators, or schools”?  What is our school board doing to oppose this testing madness? What do parents do who want to opt their children out of the PARCC?  —H.D. Worth.

“…New standardized tests hitting most of the nation this school year have been engineered to increase failure rates, and policy leaders tell us that children and parents deserve this. The expected sharp downturn in scores will no doubt further tarnish the brand of public schools, siphon yet more precious public dollars into private operators pledging to hold schools ‘more accountable,’ and add fuel to the already raging fires of a growing anti-testing movement. But what too few are asking is Who really is the failure here?

“Get Ready For Success by Failure. The great big failure comeback is courtesy of new standardized tests being rolled out across the country that are guaranteed – on purpose – to prove more American students are academic failures…

“[A] brand of these tests, developed by another federally funded consortium called PARCC, are being used in at least 12 other states. PARCC won’t set cut scores until next summer, but field tests of that exam have caused education officials in a number of locales to request delays in implementation due to the difficulty of the tests and problems with implementing them.

“Nevertheless, the first wave of the new PARCC tests rolled out to over 30,000 students this month in six states, with millions more students scheduled to take the tests later this school year in a dozen states and the District of Columbia.

“More failure is a good thing, we’re being told by United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who has claimed that passing grades of yore were tantamount to ‘lying to children and parents, telling them they’re ready when they’re not’…

“Many adults
 who have bothered to scrutinize the exams have been baffled by test items and have questioned the age-appropriateness of the exams. Education experts and parents have found that cut scores have been set at unrealistic levels.

“Teachers are alarmed at how much instructional time will be lost to the tests and how extensive and required test prep is distorting classroom teaching. Some state officials have expressed doubts that setting thresholds on students’ academic performance levels has any validity at all.

“Is there really a sharp line to distinguish when a third-grade child is proficient at reading and when he is not? At extreme ends of the scale, that may be clear. But isn’t the exact differential really a judgment call?

“A populist backlash against standardized testing continues to scale up with every passing month… Who Benefits? Certainly anyone who has an income connected to testing isn’t whining.

“According to recent calculations from the Education Division of the Software & Information Industry Association, the testing and assessment industry grew by 57 percent in the past three years. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, ‘As states race to implement the Common Core academic standards, companies are fighting for a slice of the accompanying testing market, expected to be worth billions of dollars in coming years.’

“…Most of the windfall is ‘flowing to some of the education industry’s most familiar and entrenched players,’ according to a report from Education Week noted, the ‘big vendors’ that have benefited from imposed education regulation in the past.

“It’s important to note that all this money being directed to big testing companies comes at a time when most school districts have not yet rebounded financially from the sharp budget cuts caused by the Great Recession. Nevertheless, test advocates maintain the tests are necessary not only to soothe the troubled minds of econometric bureaucrats but also for civil rights reasons…” (Who’s Really Failing Students?). 

“…Education has turned into a business, and production targets must be measured; quotas must be met.  It is tunnel vision feeding the public’s appetite for easy solutions to complex problems in our hyper-paced world, but our formulas are becoming robotic and are eroding our humanity.

“Teachers and parents have solutions: the system of public education must be returned to the communities they serve.  Parents want teachers in front of their kids, not in endless in-services.  Parents want their students taught more and tested less.  Parents want their sons and daughters to build human bonds with passionate, thoughtful, creative, and compassionate individuals.  Parents want their son’s and daughter’s experiences in education to be more than data-driven.  They want it people-driven.  Teachers want the same goals for their students…” (A Letter from the Inside: Two Active Teachers Describe the Effects of Ed Reform on Their Teaching).

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