Bob Braun posts an eloquent letter written by 35 teachers at Science Park High School in Newark, one of the top schools in New Jersey.
The teachers write:
To Whoever Will Listen:
We are teachers at Science Park High School in Newark, New Jersey, and we are deeply disturbed by the thirty days of disruption being forced on our school. In the coming weeks, like the rest of New Jersey, we will be forced to administer the PARCC exam. A few weeks ago we saw the schedule: three weeks of testing in March, followed by three weeks of testing in May. This total does not include the additional week of make-up testing following each of the three-week periods. This total does not include the days of mandatory test preparation to familiarize students with the exam’s very specific computer interface. This total does not include the thousands of hours of training of teachers and administrators to plan, schedule, and execute this exam. We honestly believe that The State of New Jersey, by forcing us to administer this time-devouring test, is engaged in behavior destructive to the educational well being of our students.
We believe that the thirty days of disruption could just as easily be called the thirty days of destruction. Science Park High School is a Blue Ribbon school. We, like many teachers in Newark and throughout New Jersey, have dedicated huge parts of our lives to making certain that our students receive an excellent education. We come in early. We stay late. We give up our weekends. We wouldn’t change our dedication because we love what we do. We love the students we teach. Our love forces us to say something.
We do not believe that parents and administrators who work for the State of New Jersey understand the destructive impact this testing will have on our ability to teach students. Some teachers will be removed from their classes for a week. The second week that same teacher may not have any students because they are being tested. In the third week they may have only partially filled classes. The disruption will continue with some students still absent from class during the fourth week of make-up exams. Then we have spring break, three weeks of teaching in April, and in May we test for a second three-to-four week period. We say again, in May we test for a second three- to four-week period!
We value our time in the classroom with our students. Teachers are important to the educational process. It is wrong to stop the educational process for close to 17 percent of the year to administer an exam. We could talk about further objections, like the use of a confusing computer interface, or the use of an exam that many highly educated and successful people have difficulty completing. But thirty days of testing is sufficiently outrageous and — we believe — indefensible.
There are three questions this schedule raises that demand answers:
1. Why is 30 days of testing disruption more beneficial than 30 days of classroom instruction? We have never heard a pedagogical justification for this and could not imagine what one would be. Explain to us how this is about the education of our children.
2. How much are the State of New Jersey and private foundations spending on the creation, training, execution, and grading of this exam, and who is financially benefitting from this? There is so much in education that we cannot afford, that we must fund out of our own pockets. There are so many teachers and clerks and drug counselors and attendance counselors who have been laid off, in our own building, in our district, in our state. What is the financial bottom line?
3. If this PARCC exam is so valuable and good, how many of New Jersey’s top private schools have adopted it? Is Delbarton or Newark Academy or Pingry subjecting their students to the “educational benefits” of this exam?
Although we, the undersigned education workers, do not represent the entire faculty at Science Park High School, we are confident that every member of our faculty shares our critique of this exam. We are even confident that many principals and superintendents not brought in by the current regime share our critique. Yet many are afraid to speak out because they fear retaliation against themselves, their principal, or even the entire staff or school if they dare voice their honest, professional opinion.
We who have signed this letter cannot live in fear. We are offended by the situation in which we find ourselves, in which education policy is dictated by billionaires who never taught a day in their lives, while our patiently gained professional expertise is ignored. Even worse, we are offended by a situation where many honest, hard-working education workers feel afraid to voice their professional opinion for fear of backlash.
What type of teachers would we be if we taught our students about the First Amendment, yet did not voice our professional opinion? What type of teachers would we be if we taught our students about civil rights movements, yet neglected to defend them from this exam? With these questions in our conscience, we are not afraid to issue this clear statement.
We love teaching. We love our students. Our collective educational opinion is that PARCC’s thirty days of disruption is bad for our schools and bad for our children.
[Bob Braun’s note: Due to technical difficulties, I was unable to reproduce the signature pages of this statement. However, these are the names appended to the statement. Because the names were hand-written, I may not spell some correctly. Corrections are requested and will be made ASAP. My apologies for any mistakes. Here is the list of names in the order they appear on the statement:]
Claudia Amanda Pecor
Richard R. Selander
Marcellus D. Green