I posted earlier today a comment by Susan Chyn, saying that she was sorry for students who have to take the PARCC test. She explained why she thought the test was not a good test. My description of her left the impression that she was tutoring students for PARCC, but this was incorrect. She tutors students in English language arts, especially literature and writing. She has worked in the standardized testing industry, which gives her insight into the deep flaws of PARCC. Some readers made baseless accusations that she was somehow profiting by tutoring students for PARCC. She is a tutor, period. She helps students prepare for the work in school and for the tests. She should not be criticized for being a tutor or for working in the testing industry. She is a knowledgeable critic of PARCC because of her own experience, and I thank her for her comments and welcome more.
Steven Rasmussen is a mathematics educator and co-founder of Key Curriculum Press. He studied the mathematics tests of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and concluded that the tests are so flawed that they should not be used.
He has written a report, analyzing sample questions, which can be found here, by opening a pdf file.
This is his summary:
This spring, tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will be administered to well over 10 million students in 17 states to determine their proficiency on the Common Core Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). This in-depth analysis of sample mathematics test questions posted online by Smarter Balanced reveals that, question after question, the tests (1) violate the standards they are supposed to assess, (2) cannot be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to use, (3) use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces, or (4) are to be graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct answers as incorrect. No tests that are so unfair should be given to anyone. Certainly, with stakes so high for students and their teachers, these Smarter Balanced tests should not be administered. The boycotts of these tests by parents and some school districts are justified. In fact, responsible government bodies should withdraw the tests from use before they do damage.
Denish Jones is a contributor to EmPower magazine. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana University. She has taught kindergarten, preschool, served as a campus based preschool director, and taught college for over 10 years. Currently she is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Howard University.
In this article, Jones warns that so-called “reformers” have stolen the language of the civil rights movement to advance their goals of privatization and deprofessionalization. Their aims actually contradict the aims of the civil rights movement.
1. Privatization is inherently unequal.
The corporate reform movement that is waging war against public education has one goal in mind: privatization. Free-market advocates do not believe in a system of public education and are on a mission to see every aspect of a public society privatized from our prisons to our schools. But with privatization comes the loss of public ownership. Public systems are open to inspection by the public. Records are made public and the process is transparent so that community members can understand what is happening and voice their concerns. Privatization removes the ability of the public to know what is happening with their tax dollars. Private companies can use proprietary laws to prevent them from disclosing documents and following laws pertaining to public records….
Without the transparency of how our tax dollars are spent how do we hold private corporations accountable? Some businesses do well but others fail to garner enough capital to stay afloat; that is the nature of capitalism. But when the business model of winners and losers is applied to public education, the losers tend to be children who struggle academically and families without the social capital needed to advocate for their children. The winners are CEO’s and stock holders who earn high salaries with public money but can use their private status to shield themselves from public accountability.
2. School choice is not about parents choosing good schools it’s about schools choosing good students.
School choice has been pushed by corporate reformers since the creation of charter schools and vouchers. Using the plight of underfunded poverty ridden urban schools reformers argued that low-income and minority families should be given a choice in where they send their child to school. Choice and competition would force low-performing schools to compete for students or be closed. Why should low-income and minority families have to settle for a failing neighborhood schools when parents with more money could choose better schools? This is how the argument for school choice is often framed as a benefit for certain groups. But the research paints a different picture….
The push for privatization distorts the picture of who really gets to choose under school choice schemes. Reformers would have us believe that parents are doing the choosing but in reality it is the charter schools, many which are for-profit corporations, who get to choose.
3. Underprepared teachers for other people’s children.
Privatization of public education cannot be fully implemented unless the system for educating teachers is also privatized. Typically teachers were prepared through colleges and universities were they took a variety of courses and completed a semester long student teaching internship before they could apply for a teaching license through their state. Today fast-track teacher preparation programs like Teach for America (TFA) are turning teacher preparation into a business. Recent college graduates are recruited to spend a few years teaching in inner-city schools with high needs students. Armed with five weeks of training and a desire to give back, these recruits are placed in classrooms and expected to outperform educators with teaching degrees and years of experience. TFA is touted as noble program that will change the teaching profession by removing the union thugs who only care about themselves and replacing them with young idealistic people who have the commitment to do what needs to be done and will not use poverty as an excuse.
Armed with language of from the Civil Rights movement, TFA claims to be champion of low-income and minority children. Statements like this, “Nearly 50 years after landmark civil rights marches throughout the region, deep, entrenched poverty still persists along racial lines” and “From Birmingham to Selma, corps members are helping to prove that all kids can achieve at high levels, even those living in poverty” can be found on their website and are clear examples of how TFA has co-opted the language of the Civil Rights movement. But hidden behind these nice quotes is the assumption that other people’s children deserve underprepared “saviors” as their teacher…..What the richest and most educated parent wants for their own child should be what we aspire to give all children.
Denisha Jones concludes:
There is much work to done as we continue to march towards Dr. King’s dream. Corporate education reform is not an ally in our fight for educational justice. We must not be fooled by those who seek to use the legacy of our struggle to turn a profit at the expense of our children’s education. A strong democratic republic needs high quality public schools that offer a free and appropriate public education to all.
This is an excellent reading list of books for children who are not taking the state tests. The books are mostly for students in grades 3-8. It was assembled by the parents and teachers who are members of New York State Allies for Public Education. The list probably would not pass muster with the Common Core Commissariat because most of the books are fiction. But they are all enjoyable books, the kind that inspire children to read on their own, for pleasure. An old-fashioned idea, but a good one.
Susan Chyn, who worked for many years in the testing industry and now tutors students in writing and English language arts, left the following comment after reading Russ Walsh’s review of the readability level of sample questions of the Common Core PARCC examination:
Reading level is but one issue. There are many other reasons to worry about PARCC, if the practice tests are representative of what the students of NJ will face in March. Having developed relatively rigorous tests at a standardized testing company for over 20 years, I am rather shocked by the quality of PARCC questions. Reading passages are presented out of context (i.e., no prefatory blurbs like “The Red Badge of Courage is a story about the Civil War,” easing test takers into the texts). The multiple-choice questions are often unclearly (ambiguously) worded; the intended answers, arbitrary. And my experience so far is that the A-B format, though trendy, leads kids to the very worst kind of back-and-forth second guessing. Suffice it to say, I have a queasy feeling about how the students I tutor (who run the gamut ELA skillwise) will fare. I hope I am wrong, but right now, I feel bad for the public school teachers, the parents and students who all will be judged by this very blunt instrument.
Activist parents and educators who belong to SaveOurSchoolsNJ helpfully assembled a dozen reasons to refuse the Common Core PARCC test.
1. PARCC is poorly designed & confusing
“For many of the sample released questions, there is, arguably, no answer among the answer choices that is correct or more than one answer that is correct, or the question simply is not, arguably, actually answerable as written.”
“The tests consist largely of objective-format items (multiple-choice and EBSR). These item types are most appropriate for testing very low-level skills (e.g., recall of factual detail). However, on these tests, such item formats are pressed into a kind of service for which they are, generally, not appropriate. They are used to test “higher-order thinking.” The test questions therefore tend to be tricky and convoluted. The test makers insist on answer choices all being “reasonable.” So, the questions are supposed to deal with higher-order thinking, and the wrong answers are all supposed to be plausible, so the test questions end up being extraordinarily complex and confusing and tricky, all because the “experts” who designed these tests didn’t understand the most basic stuff about creating assessments–that objective question formats are generally not great for testing higher-order thinking, for example.” i
2. PARCC’s online testing format is very problematic, particularly for younger students
“In the early grades, the tests end up being as much a test of keyboarding skills as of attainment in [English Language Arts or Math]. The online testing format is entirely inappropriate for most third graders.” i
3. PARCC is diagnostically & instructionally useless
“Many kinds of assessment—diagnostic assessment, formative assessment, performative assessment, some classroom summative assessment—has instructional value. They can be used to inform instruction and/or are themselves instructive.
The results of [the PARCC] tests are not broken down in any way that is of diagnostic or instructional use.
Teachers and students cannot even see the tests to find out what students got wrong on them and why. So the tests are of no diagnostic or instructional value. None. None whatsoever.” i
4. Taking and preparing for PARCC & other high-stakes standardized tests is replacing learning
Administrators at many schools “report that they spend as much as a third of the school year preparing students to take these tests. That time includes the actual time spent taking the tests, the time spent taking pretests and benchmark tests and other practice tests, the time spent on test prep materials, the time spent doing exercises and activities in textbooks and online materials that have been modeled on the test questions in order to prepare kids to answer questions of those kinds, and the time spent on reporting, data analysis, data chats, proctoring, and other test housekeeping.” i
5. PARCC will further distort curricula and teaching
“The tests drive how and what people teach, and they drive much of what is created by curriculum developers…Those distortions are grave. In U.S. curriculum development today, the tail is wagging the dog.” i
6. PARCC & other high-stakes standardized tests undermine students’ creativity and desire to learn
The research on motivation and creativity is very clear: externally imposed punishment and reward systems, like those associated with high-stakes standardized testing, suppress our intrinsic motivation, dramatically undermining creativity and love of learning.
High-stakes standardized tests also suppress motivation and creativity because the endless test preparation narrows the curriculum and creates a boring learning environment, filled with anxiety and fear.
7. PARCC & other high-stakes standardized tests have an enormous financial cost
“In 2010-11, the US spent $1.7 billion on state standardized testing alone.” With the Common Core State Standards tests, this cost increases substantially.
The PARCC contract by itself is worth over a billion dollars to the Pearson [Corporation] in the first three years, and you have to add the cost of [the Smarter Balanced Common Core Assessment] and the other state tests (another billion and a half?), to that.
No one has accurately estimated the cost of the computer upgrades that will be necessary for online testing of every child, but those costs probably run to 50 or 60 billion.
This is money that could be spent on stuff that matters—on making sure that poor kids have eye exams and warm clothes and food in their bellies, on making sure that libraries are open and that schools have nurses on duty to keep kids from dying. How many dead kids is all this testing worth, given that it is, again, of no instructional value?
IF THE ANSWER TO THAT IS NOT OBVIOUS TO YOU, YOU SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ANYWHERE NEAR A SCHOOL OR AN EDUCATIONAL POLICY-MAKING DESK.” i
8. PARCC is completely experimental. It has not been validated as accurate & yet it will be used to evaluate students, schools and teachers
“Standardized test development practice requires that the testing instrument be validated. Such validation requires that the test maker show that the test correlates strongly with other accepted measures of what is being tested, both generally and specifically (that is, with regard to specific materials and/or skills being tested).
No such validation was done for [PARCC and Smarter Balanced common core] tests…So, the tests fail to meet a minimal standard for a high-stakes standardized assessment—that they have been independently validated.” i
9. PARCC & other high-stakes standardized tests are abusive to our children
Reports of students throwing up during high-stakes standardized tests or inflicting harm to themselves as a result of test stress are already common.
PARCC is an intentionally much more difficult test that will increase students’ anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.
PARCC is extra-frustrating to our children because it is entirely on-line, creating additional test-taking challenges not related to the test content.
The combination of the more brutal PARCC tests and the more stressful on-line PARCC testing experience will result in more of our children feeling abused, anxious and afraid.
10. PARCC will worsen the achievement and gender gaps
“Both the achievement and gender gaps in educational performance are largely due to motivational issues, and these tests and the curricula and pedagogical strategies tied to them are extremely demotivating. They create new expectations and new hurdles that will widen existing gaps, not close them.”
PARCC and other Common Core exams “drive more regimentation and standardization of curricula, which will further turn off kids already turned off by school, causing more to tune out and drop out.” i
11. High-stakes standardized tests fail to improve educational outcomes
“We have had more than a decade, now, of standards-and-testing-based accountability under [No Child Left Behind]. We have seen only miniscule increases in outcomes, and those are well within the margin of error of the calculations. Simply from the Hawthorne Effect, we should have seen SOME improvement!!! And that suggests that the testing has actually DECREASED OUTCOMES, which is consistent with what we know about the demotivational effects of extrinsic punishment and reward systems. It’s the height of stupidity to look at a clearly failed approach and to say, ‘Gee, we should do a lot more of them.’” i
12. PARCC and Smarter Balanced Common Core aligned tests are designed to brand the majority of our children as failures
The Smarter Balanced test consortium announced in November that it would use very high cut scores for the test, which would result in more than half of all students labeled as failures.
In third grade, for example, only 38% of students taking the Smarter Balanced test are expected to achieve a proficient score in English and only 39% in math. ii
As numerous testing experts have pointed out, a “cut score” is “NOT an objective measure. It is a judgment call, a matter of group opinion, shaped by assumptions, and it can be manipulated to make scores appear higher or lower, depending on what” those in control want. iii
The PARCC test will set its cut scores next summer, but it is very likely to follow the same pattern, creating a false narrative of failure and causing great harm to our children and our public schools.
i Source: http://dianeravitch.net/…/bob-shepherd-why-parcc-testing-i…/
ii Source: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/11/17/13sbac.h34.html
iii Source: http://dianeravitch.net/…/how-pearsons-common-core-tests-a…/
Peter Rawitsch is a first-grade teacher in New York. He is a National Board Certified Teacher. He has been trying to teach his class the Common Core standards for nearly three years. He has concluded that they are a nightmare. He wrote this opinion piece in the Albany Times Union:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Depending on the day, my six and seven year old children might answer: “soccer player,” “princess,” or “veterinarian.” Sadly, most of them will have to put their dreams on hold because they’re too busy working on someone else’s dream of them becoming “college and career ready.” I think it’s a nightmare.
Six and seven year old children are active learners. They use all of their senses to learn in a variety of ways. Each child learns at their own pace. Play is their work. Using materials they can manipulate helps them think about how things work, use their imagination, and solve problems. They construct knowledge through their experiences.
As a 1st grade teacher with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, National Board Certification in Early Childhood, and 37 years of classroom experience, I’m deeply troubled by what is being demanded of our young learners.
For the past 2½ years I have been trying to help the children in my classroom become proficient in the 1st grade Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Because the children are at different places in their development, some have been successful with the new standards, but for too many, these new expectations are inappropriate and unfair. They’re being asked to master material they simply aren’t ready to do yet. Among the flaws of the CCSS is the assumption that all students in a given grade are capable of learning all of the same grade level standards by the end of a school year. But many of the current 1st grade standards were, just a few years ago, skills that 2nd grade students worked on.
The Gesell Institute of Child Development has studied the cognitive development of children three to six years of age since 1925. In 2010 it reported that young children “are still reaching developmental milestones in the same timeframe,” meaning, that while the learning standards have changed, the way children learn has not.
He points out that those who wrote the Common Core standards included no one experienced or expert in the teaching of the youngest learners. No one on the New York Board of Regents that adopted the Common Core had experience with teaching young children. The Common Core standards are inappropriate for young children.
He concludes that it is time for parents to take action. Learn about what your children do in school. Talk to their teacher. Find out what activities have been replaced by sitting and bubbling in answers and busywork.
How much more sitting are the children doing for reading and writing activities? How have additional paper and pencil tests affected when and how things are taught? Which activities and experiences that once enriched the school day and fostered a love of learning have been pushed out? Teachers need to talk about child development and appropriate academic standards at School Board and PTA meetings. Together we need to speak up and advocate for an education that celebrates and honors our young learners. Our children’s dreams matter.
Try this link:
As Congress continues to take steps to protect the status quo of high-stakes testing, resistance to this misguided approach to education continues to build. When the public is not heard by its elected officials, the public finds ways to be heard. It was public demonstrations that built the civil rights movement; it was public demonstrations that built the anti-war movement in the 1970s. Keep your eye on what the public is doing. The politicians don’t hear or see until the noise is deafening and the sights cannot be hidden by blindfolds.
Bob Schaeffer of FairTest writes:
Across the U.S. the testing resistance and reform movement is rapidly expanding as annual standardized exam begin in many schools. This week’s stories from more than half the 50 states clearly show the significant impact that parents, students, teachers, administrators and community leaders are having on policy makers in the fight against testing misuse and overuse.
FairTest Opt Out Resources
Fact Sheet: Why You Can Boycott Testing Without Fear of Federal Penalties for Your School
National Poll: Parents Give Standardized Tests an “F” Grade
New Video: Parents Opting Their Children Out of Common Core Tests
Opt Out Movement Surges Across U.S.
Grade-Span Exams Would be Better
Alabama Retrenching on High School Testing
Arizona Schools Balk at Being Forced to Buy Pricey Equipment for New State Tests
California’s Poor Children Need More Help, Not More Standardized Tests
Colorado Opt-Out Movement Says “No” to New Tests
Colorado Testing Has Not Improved Education Quality for Communities Most in Need
Ed. School Deans Say Connecticut Must Stop Bashing Teachers and Relying on Tests
Connecticut Teacher Explains Flaws of Annual Exams to U.S. Senator
Parents, Teachers Push Back Against Delaware Testing
Problems Plague Debut of New Florida Online Test
Legislators Under Pressure to Overhaul Florida School Testing
Georgia State Super Explains Problems with Federal Testing Mandate to Arne Duncan
lllinois Educators Leery of New State Achievement Test
How to Refuse PARCC in Illinois and Promote Opt-Out Legislation
Parents, Educators Express Concerns About Indiana Tests, Score Misuses
Louisiana Parents Opt Children Out of PARCC Tests
Maine Families Push Back Against Standardized Testing
Super Says Maine Students May Not be Ready for Common Core Tests
Bipartisan Group of Maryland Legislators Challenges Excessive Testing
Standardized Tests Taking Toll on Mississippi Schools
Judge Rules Missouri’s Common Core Testing Pact is Illegal
Thousands Opt Out as Controversial Testing Begins in New Jersey
New Jersey Parents Want PARCC Test “Parked”
Thousands of New Mexico Students Walk Out of School Over Testing
Parents Join New Mexico PARCC Protests
New York City Educators Seek Parents’ Help in Fight Against Governor’s Test-Based Evaluation Scheme
Teachers’ Rally Protest’s New York Gov. Cuomo’s Testing Policies
Ohio Families Opt Out of State Tests in Droves
Critics Say There Are Too Many Standardized Exams in Ohio Schools
Oklahoma Legislators Working to Stop End-of-Course State Tests
Too Much Testing Drives Oregon Opt-Out Surge
Smarter Balanced Assessment Fails the Test in Oregon
Philadelphia Pennsylvania Parents and Teachers Slam High-Stakes Testing at Opt-Out Forum
Rhode Island Educators Support Parents’ Right to Opt Children Out of High-Stakes Tests
Manifesto Against Rhode Island PARCC Testing
South Carolina Educators Say Leave NCLB Behind to Advance Equal Educational Opportunity
New Tennessee Ed. Commissioner Hears Teachers’ Concerns About Testing
Resolution to Reduce Testing Passes Utah House
Seattle, Washington School Refuses to Administer Smarter Balanced Test
Wisconsin School Testing Roller Coaster Takes Another Sharp Turn
More Colleges Look Beyond Test Scores to Determine Admission
FairTest List of 850+ “Test Optional” Bachelor-Degree Granting Institutions
Noam Chomsky on the Dangers of Standardized Testing
Report: New Federal Teacher Prep Rules Too Stringent
Contentious Teacher Evaluation Policies Moving to Courtrooms
In Test-Based Systems, Even Young Children Resist Learning
Current Tests Don’t Measure What Kids Should Really Master
Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
Dawn Neeley Randall is a fifth grade teacher in Ohio. She speaks forthrightly on behalf of her students. She asks: Why are we inflicting this barrage of deceptive, confusing, demoralizing testing on our children? Parents need to know that today’s tests are not like the tests we took in school when we were children. They take time away from instruction–lots of it. They are designed to fail most students. They will crush the children’s spirits and their interest in learning.
“Probably the bravest thing I’ve done in my entire 25 year career. Let the chips fall where they may.
“Blubbered on the way home after the first round of English Language Arts testing today. Got pretty choked up in the back of the room during the test itself and I think the principal who was in the computer lab administering the tests probably wondered if she was going to need to deal with a full-fledged teacher meltdown (I worried about that myself). This is just all so, so wrong. This is only Day 3 of testing and we still have months to go. Some districts (not mine, thank GOD) in our own state are bullying parents who are refusing to allow their children to sit through tests. Some superintendents (again, NOT mine!) are getting their messages out loud and clear to teachers that they are not to talk about this testing situation with parents. Some schools are making students “sit and stare” after finishing testing in order to make them work longer during the tests. Some schools are offering incentives to students testing (like gift cards and trips to a water park), but disqualifying students whose parents preferred them not to take take these tests and now they will be left behind from a day with their peers.
“A teacher in another county told about her third grader crying during yesterday’s test and a local principal told about his child awaking in the middle of the night with anxiety about the upcoming tests. Why are we allowing this? I’ve been begging for help from legislators since last March. I’m done with that. As much as I hate to see myself on video (oh, boy, do I)…I’m going to try to do the bravest thing I’ve ever done in my professional career and tell you how a teacher truly feels. I bet there are a whole lot more out there feeling just like me.
Forget about all those stories you read that said the U.S. Department of Education had/has nothing to do with promoting the Common Core standards. Forget that it is a “state-led” initiative, that the standards were “written by the governors,” and that this just bubbled up from below while ED watched from the sidelines. Months ago, Chicago Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that the district was not ready, the students were not ready, the teachers were not ready. She said she would give the tests to 10% of the students, no more. But then the hammer fell, and the hammer is in Washington, D.C. The orders from ED (the Education Department): give the tests or Illinois will lose $1.4 billion in federal money.
Is this legal? Three different federal laws prohibit any agent of the federal government from attempting to influence or control instruction or curriculum. It is a well-known fact that tests drive instruction and curriculum. Will anyone sue to stop this apparent, alleged, probable violation of the law?