Parents and students are the most powerful participants in the education debates for a simple reason: No one can fire them. Furthermore, they are not simply kibitzers or think tank pundits: Their lives are involved in the decisions about education. Here is a thoughtful comment by a parent in New Jersey, where the rebellion against high-stakes testing is in full swing:
I think it is extremely important for all educators to take the high road on this and not let justified anger cloud the logical arguments. I would encourage the NJEA President, Wendell Steinhauer, to sharpen his criticism and clearly articulate parental as well as educator concerns. I would also encourage him to have his association develop their own professional development / educational programs for teachers, working with schools. We all have many things to learn – it is a continuous process. Partnership with the “other side” – for the worthy goal of providing a wonderful education for our children – that would be difficult for Governor Christie to make less of.
I informed my local board of education during public comment that my son (6) will not be sitting for the PARCC testing (if it is still around) when he reaches third grade. I am quite serious as I feel PARCC and everything behind it is not in the best interest of any student – any teacher – any grade. Testing 8 year olds for career readiness is in itself inappropriate. Basically Common Core attempts to centralize everything – and this robs the spirit from the classroom. I feel this process it is hurtful to students for several reasons not limited to these:
1. PARCC will be administered on computer rather than paper which places pressure on our youngest of students to learn keyboarding (my son is already learning in first grade) and be exposed to computers even before they have had the experience and develop the proper motor skill to form letters correctly. The computer forms letters perfectly at the push of a button. In the perfect world I would prefer students be on computer much later. Students would benefit by working with real materials rather than inundating elementary schools with I-pads, laptops, “smart-boards” and all the other hardware “sugaring” up classrooms our youngest occupy. Tight school budgets are spending yet more on hardware just to accommodate computerized PARCC. It would make much more sense to give just one test on paper. A school’s network infrastructure, computer operating systems, and labs are not designed as a professional testing center is – and should not be. Tests of this kind are documents that require paper and are more practical on paper. Give an appropriate and elegant test once per year on paper and get the results to their teachers in a week. Perhaps that might be helpful.
2. The type of questions I found on PARCC in taking a practice test caused me a huge headache as they were twisted and confusing. I would not subject a young mind to such an assessment. In addition, activities in the classroom should not be centered on what is on this test. This robs the classroom of spontaneity – teaching moments – and valuable digression into areas of interest. A one size fits all top down totalitarian style mandated test is counter to our land’s free and open spirit.
3. Data collection – I will not have 400 points of data collected on my son and held in a database of a private company (already under investigation) for unknown future use. Centralizing this is an invasion of my son’s privacy and disrespectful. I will not have a third party testing company hold his data. Every parent needs to be concerned about this – it is Un-American! More than enough data to inform instruction can be obtained in various ways within the school itself.
4. Two tests per year are given. Massive amounts of instructional time is lost. Two tests because they will be used to evaluate teacher performance. This is flawed logic. There are way too many variables in the lives of students that can have dramatic effects on how they do in school. In addition, over evaluate a staff and you will have no time to inspire – no energy to motivate. Yet more tests, in most cases, are also administered for the so called “Student Growth Objectives“ – one more bad idea gone wild. Administrators have more than enough information within the building to inform instruction. In addition, local school districts are surrendering to a micromanaging overreach by the federal and state governments – as are teachers. What will be next? Teacher lesson plans from headquarters? We are going down a dangerous and undemocratic road.
An educational leader, in my opinion, must be a catalyst – must be the cause of positive excitement about the world – like of the world, real curiosity, knowing of the world! The American poet and philosopher Eli Siegel stated “The purpose of education is to like the world through knowing it“ and I wholeheartedly agree. I hope Mr. Hespe and other leaders will respectfully find out more about his important philosophy and extremely effective teaching method.
I believe that we are presently in a situation where teachers and students are not lifted up – but instead, insulted through SGOs, endless data collection, performance rubrics, and more. A once more collegial relationship is being replaced by a corporate style data collecting and crunching top down management – (a la McDonald’s) filling out endless computerized evaluations of teachers digitally warehoused by a centralized and privatized third party company. If more weight were given to supporting and lifting our teachers – more resources given to motivating, exciting, and further educating them – it would, in my opinion, be very wise – as our students, our children, my child, would benefit. We are missing that boat all should be on – parents, teachers, administrators, elected, BOE members, and our children.
I intend to be a vocal critic / advocate for my son and all his classmates at PTA meetings, BOE meetings and even council meetings in my own town. I hope more and more parents will object to mandating of Common Core / PARCC / teacher over- evaluation, and hope that the state reconsiders how it sees its schools, its teachers, and all its young residents across a most uneven (and unfair) financial spectrum. What is desperately needed is people centered decisions and laws – not profit centered.
I believe Dr. Maria Montessori saw children as individuals and respected the differences – and different rates of development found in each young mind – this is needed – not a one size fits all (profit centered) approach. Most importantly, in order to have schools be more successful everywhere, the state must work hard to close the huge financial gap within and between communities and lift communities rather than attempting to privatize schools in the most needy areas. That is no solution and an ugly cop out by our government that increasingly seems to be on the side of the profiteers – not the people.
David Di Gregorio, Parent
Englewood Cliffs, NJ