Monday, December 8, 2014

Don't PARCC?

Don't Park the Parcc?
By Jim Vail

The usual suspects are lining up to stop the growing movement to postpone the upcoming Common Core test the Parcc Exam.

Teach Plus, a Gates funded education reform group that supports Common Core, held a conference a few weeks ago to laud the new Parcc exam.

The teachers who attended, though, expressed their frustration with the new test that they say will be too difficult for special education and English Language Learners, among many other problems.

Catalyst magazine then featured a recent article written by Teach Plus entitled, "Don't park the PARCC" stating that despite the many problems, the test should still go on.

"There is no doubt that a great deal of hesitation and skepticism surrounds the roll-out of the PARCC. Concerns range from the difficulty and rigor of the new assessment to the technical and bandwidth capacities of Chicago Public Schools and individual schools within the district. These concerns will not go away by postponing the test for another year. Piloting the PARCC now provides us with the opportunity to address issues head-on and find solutions."

The Catalyst article says it will be "amazing" that Chicago will be able to pilot the PARCC exam, despite the fact that even the Chicago schools chief asked also to postpone the exam that will prove to be a very rigorous test. Only 30 percent of the students in New York passed this Common Core test last year.

A great education activist commented about the inaccurate portrayal of the Teach Plus event in the Catalyst article. She cited our Second City Teachers report on the meeting two weeks ago.

Very Inaccurate Account of Teach Plus Event

I was one of the teachers at this event, and the Teach Plus account of what teachers were saying is absolutely false. To be clear, Teach Plus NEVER asked the group if they thought we should park the PARCC. The entire presentation was about how PARCC compares to ISAT, and then the feedback section only asked us to look through a sample and rate how well it met different pre-determined criteria. There was no chance to voice general dislike of the entire test nor how it's already negatively impacting our classrooms.
Also, keep in mind that Teach Plus purposefully tries to bring in an unrepresentative sample of teachers (the event was held at an UNO charter and many of the teachers seemed to be AUSL or charter teachers. Plus many of the people I met were Teach For America members/alums.) The event was not an open call, but rather private emails send out to people who had already attended Teach Plus events and asking them to invite friends (who are more likely to be partial to corporate education reforms like Common Core.) Still, of the teachers that spoke out in the large group setting, many spoke angrily about how awful this test is. Teachers at my table all agreed that we should throw this test out, even the reform-friendly folks.
Here's what another teacher wrote about the event:
"During the feedback time, teachers then took the mic to complain about the test that many would like to see delayed, or dismissed all together.
The first teacher said the stories are divorced from meaning and so preparing for these demanding tests makes her students hate reading.
Another teacher said questions broken into two parts are vaguely written and confusing to understand.
One teacher asked how can this test possibly help special education (diverse learners is the new lingo) and bilingual students.
Another teacher said the technology needs to be taught to the students on how to take the exam; for example, not being able to find the right key to go back to the story is very problematic.
A high school teacher noted that they have been training students to take the ACT test for so long, and now have only 24 months to teach the PARCC Test while there is still lots of confusion.
Another asked, what if the computer freezes? Will this affect the children's test?
While Teach Plus's goal may have been to promote the Common Core and its assessment the PARCC exam, they certainly got an earful of negative feedback on this new test that will rock the schools once it rolls out."

The Catalyst article is at:

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