Recently I had a converstaion with a third grade teacher about the PARCC test, and I just can’t get it out of my head.
She told me that her students like the test. They love to show what they know and want more tests. She said that she thought that all of the stress related to the test came from the nervous adults. She claimed that adults are just not comfortable with change. Though she did admit that maybe some of the enthusiasm for the test came from the treats and special things the school did to encourage the kids to do their best on the test last year.
Here is one example of a test day treat that some schools use (not necessary this particular teacher).
But, I wanted to listen to hear the other side.
My newsfeed is full of fellow activists against the PARCC test. This teacher felt very strongly that the test was a good thing for her students. She teaches in a district known for their excellent schools. Maybe she knows something I don’t.
So I listened, when usually my modus operandi is to argue.
I listened, but when she finished. I asked a question.
What about the fact that the majority of students in NJ scored below grade level on the PARCC test last year? How did the students feel when the report came home telling them that they failed?
I can honestly say that this teacher’s response shocked me.
She replied that she knows that many parents just didn’t show their children their scores. My face probably gave away my thoughts, so she continued to say that the students don’t really know what the colors or levels mean.
I guess she has a point. Most third graders cannot comprehend the most likely wordy score report that arrived home this year way after their third grade year ended (certainly too late to drive instruction as the test advocates promised).
But what about the kids in all of the other tested grades? Do they know they failed? Should their parents hide the score reports too and maybe the newspaper reports that the majority of NJ students scored below grade level?
Should parents and teachers make them feel better by telling them that a couple of years ago the vast majority of NY students failed too (prompting their powerful opt out movement)?
Should failing be no big deal when so much time and money is devoted to the PARCC?
What kind of children are we raising if we teach them to try their best on a test that might soon count for graduation, but in the same breath tell them that failing is no big deal?
What kind of education reform relies on this kind of bait and switch? Not one that I want for the children of NJ. Not one that I will tolerate for my children.
If my children return to school next year, I will compose their opt out letter in September and explain to my children why I wrote it.
I do not believe in the carrot-and-stick approach to learning. I do not believe in anyone exciting my children to perform academically for anyone except themselves. I do not believe that deceiving children is a productive way to educate them.
And I do not believe there is any value in the PARCC test.
Even if the students are excited to take it.
They should be excited about learning. Period.