The media has finally been drawn to the controversial PARCC test like moths to a flame. But you can really pick and choose which articles you want to believe, it’s like a presidential race where supporters of each side offer completely opposite interpretations of every single thing that happens.
Despite plenty of news reports and submissions to Save Our Schools NJ highlighting many instances of computer issues and time wasted, once again Commissioner Hespe turned to the media to downplay any negativity.
Hespe said he hopes the first day is an indication that parents and student see value in the new tests. ‘I think parents, in the end, understood just how valuable this test is going to be to them and their child to learn so much about their child’s educational needs,’ Hespe said.”
Read the full article here.
Well, Hespe can talk all he wants to because today more and more parents joined the Opt Out NJ page bringing the members up to 10,000 and counting. New reports surfaced of the PARCC help line crashing and of a possible hacking incident in Union Township that shut down testing.
But, I don’t want to debate how the PARCC went. Whether the administering of the test goes well or is riddled with problems, high stakes testing has a tremendous impact on education regardless.
Many have heard the arguments against the PARCC.
- Pearson is a company with a nefarious track record.
- The test itself is flawed (developmentally inappropriate, deliberately tricky and confusing questions, difficult to navigate, not properly field tested or proven valid).
- Too long.
- Teacher evaluations are tied to them, which leads to more teaching to the test.
- Based on controversial and highly debated Common Core Standards.
- Rushed implementation.
- Questionable data-mining.
I could go on and on, as I have been part of this movement from its beginnings in Long Island, NY with the Lace to the Top movement.
But for a moment let us set all of this aside and think just about the money. As a result, the argument against the PARCC and tests like it will become even more lucid. Consider this well-written open letter composed and signed by 35 teachers at Science Park High School in Newark.
In this letter, the teachers question the purpose of the extended testing period. “We believe that the thirty days of disruption could just as easily be called the thirty days of destruction.” They discuss in detail how much learning time their students have lost due to the PARCC test. The amount of precious time being wasted sickens me, for I know how quickly the school year flies by. When I was teaching, I never felt like I had enough time to accomplish all that I wanted to in a class period, a marking period, or even in an entire school year.
Yet the second question that these teachers pose, strikes me particularly hard as I just attended a proposed school budget presentation for the town I just moved to for the great schools. The budget presented called for teachers to be cut or reduced to part time in favor of spending on teacher training (for an English Language Arts initiative that was not explained) and testing. They proposed a 17.3% increase in spending in these areas, yet teachers are being cut. A summer enrichment program that has been a long standing tradition in the town was also cut in favor of a reading program that has yet to be explained or announced.
The Newark high school teachers asked this:
“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?”
They ask crucial questions here, because while parents are distracted by the PARCC test, school budgets are being decided. Cuts are happening and parents are not paying attention. Many parents won’t see the connection between spending on these tests and cuts being made in their local budgets to compensate for the cost.
Cuts that favor literacy and math support over special services and enrichment are especially lucrative if the district superintendent’s salary has a provision for merit pay. With merit pay a reality in NJ, of course superintendents are going to support the PARCC. The better the test scores, the more money they make. Make no mistake, it is not a coincidence that many superintendents have run pro-PARCC information sessions, discouraged and even threatened test refusers, and even in some cases written puff pieces for the media. Many stand to benefit directly from good test scores.
The deceit runs deep.
Follow the money and run, don’t walk to your school budget hearings.
They are happening this month!
If the PARCC fails or the state decides to go in another direction, we won’t get a refund. No time gets returned. Merit pay is not handed back. Money spent on training won’t be recouped. Teachers who lost their jobs won’t be rehired because districts will hire younger, cheaper teachers.
We need to fight back hard and change the process, so that this does not happen again and again. If you wonder why America spends more money on education that the rest of the world, this is a big part of the answer. Every time there is a new test or a new standard, someone makes money. If we fail to pay attention and protect what we love about our schools, education will whittle away to include only the bare minimum of what is most profitable.