Here it is, folks! Your one-stop shopping center for reaction to NJ Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe's latest missive about the PARCC!
In an attempt to thwart the mounting 'opt-out' movement that is quickly spreading across the state, Hespe released this directive last week to superintendents and school district administrators which basically tells them to tell parents that opting out isn't an option. Predictably, the backlash from parents and other concerned individuals and groups has been loud, swift and full of real logic and reasoning.
Former teacher, parent, attorney and blogger, Sarah Blaine's post was picked up by the Washington Post. In her piece titled, 'This Means War', Blaine says:
It doesn’t take a Ph.D to realize that it is fundamentally wrong to base education policy on essays our fourth graders are required to type — when they’ve never taken typing classes.
It appears to me that you’re [Hespe] taking a page from your boss’s playbook by telling those of us who disagree with you to “sit down and shut up.” It appears to me, Acting Commissioner Hespe, that you’re trying to bully those of us who do not see the value in your precious PARCC tests by punishing our children....That’s low, Acting Commissioner. Really low. And do you know what? You don’t intimidate me. All you’ve done is piss me off. And Acting Commissioner, I’ll tell you this: pissing off parents — and voters — like me is probably not the way to ensure the long-term success of your policies. You were just a faceless bureaucrat. Now I want to get you fired. You deserve no less for attempting to bully parents by punishing our children.
She goes on to say that her 4th grade child's PARCC testing is longer that the NJ State Bar Exam. Yea, you read that right.
Teacher, mom and blogger, Ani McHugh (aka. TeacherBiz) points out the fuzzy logic behind Hespe's assertion that the PARCC is the be-all and end-all of standardized testing.
This statement essentially suggests that the assessments New Jersey students have been taking for years (NJASK/HSPA) were worthless. If that’s true, why were students who scored partially proficient on the HSPA denied diplomas because of their scores? Why were they forced to participate in the AHSA process–which, in many districts, was offered in lieu of academic or elective courses and which sometimes lasted beyond a student’s senior year of high school–until they passed the HSPA? Why did many districts use NJASK and HSPA scores as justification for remedial course placements? Why did we devote so many instructional hours to inferior testing? Why did the NJDOE promote and tie high stakes to such inadequate tests for so long? What evidence does the NJDOE have that PARCC assessments are valid measures of student learning and/or achievement? What can one test “diagnose” that classroom teachers cannot? And, ultimately, why should parents trust the DOE’s evaluation of assessment–especially an unproven and controversial one like PARCC–if it was so wrong about the NJASK and HSPA?
TCNJ education major and perennial thorn in the side of the NJ State BOE, Melissa Katz, writes about her experiences as the first generation to go completely through K-12 in the NCLB years. Her absolute love of learning came to a screeching halt in high school when she suffered from debilitating school anxiety. Hespe's directive struck a nerve:
...our students deserve better: they deserve respect and to be treated as humans, not testing machines used to further the state's unproven and untested "reforms."
As a current student and future teacher, I will not stop fighting until I know my students one day will be treated as humans, as learners, and as explorers. I will not stop fighting until there is equitable education for all - for students who can't test well, but are brilliant artists. For students who can't test well, but make the most beautiful music to ever grace our ears. For the students who can't test well, but are math geniuses. For the students who can't test well but are our future teachers, scientists, dreamers, inventors, dancers, artists, musicians, historians, or whatever their passion is....If these tests are so vitally important to our children's futures, so vitally important for educators' prescriptive plans to magically make every single child in this state 'college and career ready' (whatever that means), why the heck does it take 6 months to get the results? That teacher can't use that data to help that child.
We must move away from the test-and-punish regime in education before we destroy the love of learning for students, no matter what they love or how they learn. We owe this to them and the future of education in this country.
Blogger/educator, Peter Green, who blogs under the moniker Curmudgucation, offers up a healthy list of 'rigorous' questions for Mr. Hespe should you decide to opt your children out of the PARCC:
- Exactly what is the correspondence between PARCC results and college readiness. Given the precise data, can you tell me what score my eight year old needs to get on the test to be guaranteed at least a 3.75 GPA at college?
- Does it matter which college he attends, or will test results guarantee he is ready for all colleges?
- Can you show me the research and data that led you to conclude that Test Result A = College Result X? How exactly do you know that meeting the state's politically chosen cut score means that my child is prepared to be a college success?
- Since the PARCC tests math and language, will it still tell me if my child is ready to be a history or music major? How about geology or women's studies?
- My daughter plans to be a stay-at-home mom. Can she skip the test? Since that's her chosen career, is there a portion of the PARCC that tests her lady parts and their ability to make babies?
- Which section of the PARCC tests a student's readiness to start a career as a welder? Is it the same part that tests readiness to become a ski instructor, pro football player, or dental assistant?
- I see that the PARCC will be used to "customize instruction." Does that mean you're giving the test tomorrow (because it'a almost November already)? How soon will the teacher get the detailed customizing information-- one week? Ten days? How will the PARCC results help my child's choir director and phys ed teacher customize instruction?
- Is it possible that the PARCC will soon be able to tell me if my eight year old is on track for a happy marriage and nice hair?
- Why do you suppose you keep using the word "utilize" when "using" is a perfectly good plain English substitute?
- To quote the immortal Will Smith in Independence Day, "You really think you can do all that bullshit you just said?"
But perhaps the piece de resistance came from Jacklyn Brown, a member of the Facebook group, Opt Out of State Standardized Tests — New Jersey who posted the following letter. This is a closed group, so I can't share the link. But it hits the nail on the head:
(NOTE: I apologize for the format of this letter, but technical difficulties prevented me from copying and pasting, linking or otherwise uploading, so I did it as a series of screen shots. Greater minds than mine, I'm sure, could have figured out a work-around.)
This about sums it up. Yea, it's really weird that Princess Leia suddenly starts speaking in a British accent, but this is what's happening. The more the 'reformers' try to tighten their grip around our children's education, the more parents and children will slip through their fingers.
Good news travels fast! Within minutes of posting this, Jacklyn Brown's letter has been made into a PETITION. Please sign and share!