Thursday, February 26, 2015

Say No to PARCC

Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice invites you to our next program--
                                               AGAINST THE PARCC TESTS!
(1) What does it mean to say “Children Are More Than a Score“?
(2)  Are these features of existing standardized tests a problem?:
They mainly reflect class backgrounds.
They are taking too much teaching and learning time in Chicago.
They narrow what is taught in classrooms.
They are being misused in judging schools, teachers, students.
(3) Why we call on everyone to support the Opt-Out movement against the PARCC standardized tests this March and May.
(4) What are good ways to assess children’s progress?  Are there good alternatives to the existing standardized tests? 
Saturday, February 28, 2- 4 p.m.
Albany Park Library, Foster & Kimball
(The Kimball and Foster buses stop there. This is four blocks north of the Lawrence/Kimball Brown Line stop.)
(This library is wheel chair accessible.)
For more information or questions call Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice
at 773.250.3335 or write                  
(This is from the February For Peace and Justice, newsletter of Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace & Justice.)
Why are so many parents, students & teachers opposing
      the PARCC tests that are to be given in March and May?

     Who has the right to decide the future of public education? Is it educators, parents, and other working people-- or big corporations from the Business Roundtable, like Exxon Mobil?    
     Corporations are trying to block us from exercising our right to be the ones who make changes in public education. One result is called Common Core, which uses tests like the PARCC (“Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers”) to see whether children are learning what corporations think they should learn. These tests are to be given in Chicago in March and May.
     Why are so many teachers, parents and students up in arms against these new standardized tests-- which they judge to be even worse than the unfair standardized tests that have been used for years 
     To begin with, these tests mean great stress for children--and their teachers and parents--and serve no good purpose.
     They are called “standardized tests,” but that doesn’t mean they were scientifically constructed  by educators, or tested on a representative sample of children. They are based on “standards” that are unproven and untested. Generally, they are also culturally biased against working class, poor and minority students whose vocabularies and experiences are usually quite different from children in affluent families. Their cultures are usually not represented in tests.  
     What amazes many people is that study after study shows that what standardized tests actually measure is the students’ class backgrounds: the higher the parents’ income, the higher the children’s test scores(Readings that show all these facts:  Chris Carter, “The Case Against StandardizedTests”;;unitedoptout. com/wpcontent/uploads/2014/04/ArizonaMarch302014.pdf; ew/articles/2014/05/ 07/30letter-5.h33.html #).
     Students from all backgrounds have already been frustrated by the new books and computer lessons that go with Common Core tests. 
     After taking practice PARCC tests, many children have come home crying about how confusing they are(For examples, see the recent More Than a Score webinar on PARCC testing at minute 39:41-- or see )
     It’s useful to look at the experience of  states, such as NY, where students have already taken PARCC tests. Before the tests were given, Pearson Corp. explained that they had purposely decided to set the passing grades so high that only 30% of children would pass. That’s exactly what happened--70% of the children failed!   This was a terrible new experience for most children.  Their teachers knew all their work and had judged them to be progressing normally for their grade levels.
     But the corporations who want Common Core and the tests that go with it think that a very high failure rate is just fine. From their standpoint, students need to be “stretched to meet higher standards.”  According to them, when children fail, they try harder. 
    On the other side are educators and parents.  They know that when children are set up to fail, they become discouraged, and hate school.
     So should we just go back to what we had before? No. The aim of thoughtful people is to save AND  improve public education.
    So then, what’s to be done?  Is it wrong to assess how well children are progressingNot at all. But there is strong evidence that other kinds of assessment are effective. These include using portfolios of children’s work, evaluations of their individual and
group projects, and fair tests that can be used to improve teaching and learning.            
Tens of thousands of teachers, parents and other working people are protesting.  Why?
      * PARCC tests  increase the already overwhelming  number of standardized tests being given to students.  They require more hours of class time, usually on computers,  and more months of teaching for the tests.
      * PARCC tests, created by the Pearson Corporation, are filled with confusing questions, often with no clearly correct answers in the multiple choice selections.
      Teachers are pressured  to spend most of the time preparing students for tests based on narrow Common Core standards, leaving little or no time  for art, music, languages, physical education, critical thinking--  essentials for a  curriculum inclusinf learning about problems in our society and possible solutions.
       * Next year more will be at stake in PARCC tests. Teachers will  be given bad marks and can eventually be fired, if their students get lower grades than students in affluent neighborhoods,as if teachers can overcome the problems many children face--poverty, racism, unemployment. This adds insult to injury, since the tests are no good for any child:  they are based on the dismal Common Core curriculum.      
       * Neighborhood schools may also be unfairly graded as “failures” and shut down, or shaken up by outsiders.  
      * When  the grades on the tests are finally available to teachers, it will be impossible for teachers to use them to help the children, because Pearson won’t allow teachers to see the questions and answers, or how particular children answered specific questions.
              Can the PARCC tests be re-written so they are valid, and promote well-rounded education? --Not as long as they are based on the privately owned and copyrighted Common Core curriculum and standards. The tests will reflect the faulty standards they are based on.  Common Core is a total package-- starting with what it says children must know or be able to do at each grade level, regardless of whether it’s age-appropriate.The stated aim is to produce “career and college ready” graduates--which means students are ready to fill jobs in corporations or go into the military. Most parents have a larger vision. They consider their children to be more than a score on these tests.  Most parents want children prepared to build a democratic society with peace and justice.  This is not what corporations are after.
              Serious public discussion across the nation is essential  so everyone can help to decide what kind of public education and assessment is needed.    Throughout the U.S. parents, teachers, students, and others have organized  a movement  which encourages  students to refuse to take (that is, opt out of) the PARCC tests. Last year tens of thousands opted-out from PARCC and other standardized tests. This includes Chicago.
             We can all empower ourselves by working with others to oppose what is wrong and exercise our right to decide what kinds of changes are needed.  Corporations can not be allowed to produce a lockstep  workforce, and an obedient military--for  the sake of maximizing profits.  
    In Chicago right now, empowering ourselves means participating in the fight against the PARCC tests. Call or email us to describe your experiences and raise questions, and to get updates and information about planned actions.

SAMPLE QUESTION FROM A COMMON CORE PARCC TEST (Partnership for Assessing Readiness for College and Careers)

Take the following practice test  question from the Pearson Co to see for yourself what the experience of schoolchildren will be. It is for grade 4.  It can be found at: Keep in mind that students have to have computer skills, and this is a  timed test.  What do you think of it?\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F\u001F

“The Cricket and the Cougar” by Kathleen Chandler
1)  One day the cougar was out walking in the woods.  As he was stepping near an old rotten log, he heard a tiny voice say, “Oh, please don’t step there.  That’s my house, and with one step more you will destroy it.”
2)  The cougar looked down and saw a little cricket sitting on the log.  He roared, “And is it you, weak little creature, that dares to tell me where to step? Don’t you know that I am king of the beasts?”
3)  “You may be king of the beasts, but I am king of my house, and I don’t want you to break it down, king or no king.”
4) The cougar was amazed at such daring.  “Don’t you know, you weakling, that I could kill you and your house and all your relatives with one blow of my paw?”
5) “I may be weak, but I have a cousin no bigger than I am who can master you in a fight?”
6)  “Well, little boaster, you have that cousin here to-morrow. Let’s see if he can master me!”
7) The next day the cougar came back to the same spot and roared, “Where is your cousin?”
8) The mosquito, the cricket’s cousin was buzzing around.”
9) The cricket sat on a log and looked on.
10) Then the cougar felt a stinging, “Oh, oh,” he roared, “get out of my ear!’”
11) “With every sting the cougar roared louder and scratched his ear and jumped around.”
12) “Oh, oh!” he roared,  ‘get out of my ear!”
13)  The cricket said, “ Mosquito will stop, if you promise never to step on my house.  You are not the king of beasts.”
14) “Yes, yes.  Make him stop.”
What is the meaning of the word master as it is used in paragraphs 5 and 6?
A) understand  C) befriend
B) conquer D) frighten
Which detail from the story best supports the answer to PART A?
A) “Don’t you know that I am king of the beasts?”
B) “Well, little boaster, you have that cousin here to-morrow…”
C) Then he felt a stinging, “Oh, oh” he roared, “get out of my ear!”
D) The cricket sat on a log and looked on.
Drop and drag three details from the story that help create the setting of this story.
Details from the Story
“One day the cougar was out “The cougar looked down and
walking in the woods.” saw a little cricket sitting on a log.”
“He roared, “And is it you, “With every sting the cougar
weak little creature,  roared louder and scratched
that tells me where to step?” his ear and jumped around…”  
“Oh, oh!” he roared,  “The next day the cougar came back 
“get out of my ear!’” to the same spot and roared…”

Part A
Which statement best expresses one of the themes of the story?
A) Believe in the wisdom of others.
B) Everyone has strengths. 
C) Do not be afraid of others.
D) We can all learn how to do new things from others.
Part B
Which detail from the story provides the best evidence for the answer to Part A?
A) The tough cougar believes the cricket at the end of the story.
B) The tiny mosquito is not afraid of the cricket.
C. The scary cougar learns to leave the cricket alone.
D. The mighty mosquito saves the cricket’s house.

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