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Are Teachers Ready to “Just Say No” to Piloting the PARCC?

March 21, 2014

The PARCC test is currently being field-tested in school systems throughout America; in Massachusetts alone, 360 districts are participating. 

Social media is abuzz with conversations about “Opting-Out”; organizations that are designed to inform and encourage parents to opt their children out are cropping up everywhere. Slowly, some legislators have finally come to see the light and are supporting parents who choose to take this stand. There are even some school districts notifying parents of the Opt-Out option, and instructing them on how to go about doing so.

Let’s pretend you’re a parent who only understands the goings-on in education via mainstream media (ie, you think these reform efforts and Duncan/Obama policy are actually good for your children). And let’s pretend you live in Worcester, Massachusetts, and your child came home from school last week with the following letter:

March 19, 2014

Dear Parent/Guardian:

As you may have heard, Massachusetts is a participating state in the Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, a multi-state project to develop a next-generation, computer-based testing program. The goal of PARCC is to measure student progress toward the state’s new academic learning standards in English language arts and mathematics.

Over the next two years, Massachusetts is piloting the PARCC test in schools throughout the state to see how well it measures the state’s learning standards and to help determine whether it should replace MCAS, the state’s current testing program. I am writing to inform you that your child’s class has been selected for participation in an English language arts or mathematics field test between March 24 and April 11.

The purpose of the field test is to allow schools and students to experience the new test before it counts and to allow PARCC developers to ensure that the test questions are fair, on grade level, and measure the intended skills. I would like to assure you that your child will not receive a score or grade based on the PARCC test. Should you choose for your child not to participate in the field test, please notify your child’s principal prior to the testing date. Your child’s school will be notifying you of the testing dates soon. There will be no academic or disciplinary penalty for not participating, and appropriate accommodations will be provided during testing time.

If you wish to learn more about PARCC, please visit the web site of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at http://www.doe.mass.edu/parcc/. If you have additional questions, you may contact Worcester Public Schools’ Office of Research and Accountability at WPSORA@worc.k12.ma.us or, as always, ask your child’s principal.

Sincerely,
Melinda J. Boone, Ed.D.
Superintendent

What would your reaction to this letter be? Would you think it best to Opt your child Out? Or would you think it was important to help make sure the “test questions are fair, on grade level, and measure the intended skills” before it will actually “count” for him or her? Or maybe you would need a little more information first, and would click on the link to the MA DOE to find out more…

The only parent who likely would Opt-Out his/her child is the parent who takes the initiative to dig deeper – who turns away from mainstream media and instead looks to social media for information. And how many are likely to do that?

I hate to be a pessimist, because the reality is, I do believe the tide is turning. I further believe that Opting-Out of high-stakes tests can, and likely will, be what stops this corporate reform movement in its tracks.

Except I don’t think we can wait for the parents.

I think it’s time for the teachers to step up to the plate.

And this massive field-test of the PARCC could only set them up to hit a grand slam.

All they have to do is refuse to pilot the test.

It’s simple, when you think about it.

Imagine if every teacher – in every one of the schools – within every one of the 360 districts in Massachusetts, alone – simply refused to take part in this PARCC pilot. Would it really not make an impact?

This so-called “field-test” is not really a field test. The feedback from teachers will matter naught. This is nothing more than the final gateway into what will soon become “official policy”.

The teachers need to close the gates.

The teachers need to Just Say No.

The teachers need to Opt-Out of piloting the PARCC on behalf of their own students.

 

 

 

 

 

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