Next week, spring testing starts for our students—again. My oldest son, a third grader, already had one round of testing in the fall—the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) for the third grade reading guarantee, and he will be required to take it again this spring. It is my understanding that third graders will only be asked to take one Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test this spring, but by next year, as fourth graders, they are going to be assessed 12 times at 1.5-2 hours for each test. Think about that. That is just PARCC, not counting any other standardized testing that may take place. But even if nothing else is scheduled, why on earth are we going to give a standardized assessment test to fourth graders 12 times in one school year? Common Core Standards and the implementation of the PARCC standardized test are flawed need to be repealed and replaced.
Just as a matter of completing course work, children do homework, they have quizzes, they work on projects, and they have end-of-chapter tests to assess whether they have picked up on the concepts that are being taught. Through this every day completion of assignments, I know that I see these items that come home with grades on them. I know if my child is understanding the topics being taught at school. Likewise, if you ask my child’s teacher, she would probably also be able to give a quick and informed answer as to where he is with the coursework.
According to the PARCC website, the purpose of PARCC is:
“The PARCC member states share this fundamental goal: ensuring that every student graduates from high school prepared for success in college and the workplace.
The PARCC states’ high quality assessments will allow parents and educators to see how children are progressing in school and whether they are on track for postsecondary success. The PARCC assessment also provides teachers with the ability to identify students who may be falling behind and need extra help.”
Okay, this sounds nice, but why are we assessing my third grader for college and career preparedness? He may change his mind a dozen times about what he wants to be when he grows up. A third grader’s cognitive abilities and knowledge level will develop over the next nine years of school as well. Any assessment taken today of his college or career preparedness would most likely be meaningless a few years from now. I just don’t see the logic in career or college testing at this age. And with the basic classroom structure, with report cards going home quarterly, we already have a way for teachers to “identify students who may be falling behind and need extra help.”
We have daily observations of teachers with students, we have classroom tests, we already have standardized tests. Why do we need to implement more standardized testing with PARCC? Furthermore, PARCC test scores will not be available until next year, so how can that possibly help a teacher evaluate a student who is in need of extra help? When schools do receive the test scores, they will not receive the tests to actually see where the students may have missed questions. Again, the implementation of the PARCC testing is not living up to its own stated purpose. Of the 45 states that have adopted Common Core Standards, less than twelve of those states are still part of the PARCC Consortium.
If students aren’t benefiting from this, and teachers aren’t benefiting from this, then who is? Who actually benefits from Common Core and PARCC? Millions of dollars are being spent on these standards and tests. The costs that school are paying per student for PARCC are nearly double the amount that it would cost to implement other standardized tests. So perhaps, we should look at Pearson and any other special interest organizations that are promoting and potentially benefiting from Common Core and PARCC.
Probably the aspect of this testing that bothers me the most is when you look at the Ohio Department of Education website and see this explanation:
“Many districts are receiving communication from families refusing their children’s participation in state tests this spring. The department encourages schools to talk with families about their concerns regarding testing. To help inform this conversation, the department has developed this information for districts and families about student participation in state tests.
The information describes how there is no law that allows a parent or student to opt out of state testing and there is no state test opt-out procedure or form. It also details the consequences for students, teachers and districts when students do not participate in state tests.”
When you click on the “this information” link, there is NO mention of PARCC. The information provided is intentionally misleading. HB 487, already in effect, provides a Safe Harbor for students and allows parents to have the final authority over their child’s education. Parents can opt their children out of PARCC testing by filling out this form and sending it to the school.
In addition to the potentially ulterior motives behind the implementation of PARCC, I feel this is putting an undue additional amount of testing stress on my child, and it is unfair to the teachers as well. Most of the teachers that I know teach because they have calling to do so. Quite simply, they love what they do and they want to make a difference in the lives of our children. So when I start to hear teachers quietly and discreetly objecting to all of the standardized testing, I have to wonder why. The straightforward answer is that they feel they cannot speak out because their jobs are potentially on the line—their careers, their livelihoods.
So let’s dig a bit deeper. Why would teachers feel that they cannot speak out against Common Core and PARCC standardized testing? They are the ones who are in the education field, with the students every day. They have the best pulse on what is going on with their students and their learning, right? Their voices need to be heard—without them feeling like they may lose their jobs for expressing professional opinions. When, as a state or a nation, did we decide that it was acceptable to try to silence people from speaking out or threaten baseless retribution on children for the benefit of the state or federal government?
A few examples have recently surfaced, even with the fear of reprisal, some teachers and administrators are speaking out from three of the states that are still a part of the PARCC consortium:
Dr. Jocelyn Weeda, PhD Miami University – Educational Leadership, Curriculum, and Culture; Nationally Board Certified Middle Childhood Specialist; and Grade 6 – 8 Science Teacher, Centerville City Schools, wrote an open letter to the Board of Centerville City Schools encouraging parents to opt their children out of this testing:
“I am a 20-year teaching professional in Ohio and after reading the recent release from the Ohio Department of Education’s “Information on Student Participation on Testing”; I was flabbergasted by the intent of the release. Why? Because the release was written in attempt to bully parents, teachers, and school districts into compliance with standardized testing that has the highest of stakes attached to it. I have taught my middle-schoolers that bullies must be confronted. Therefore, this letter is intended to outline why I, even with my job clearly being threatened in this release, still am encouraging parents to refuse state-mandated standardized tests for their children.”
Dr. Weeda goes on to explain how this has taken a teacher’s ability to teach away. So much time and attention must be given to preparing students for taking—and passing—these tests. As a state, and even as a country, why are we moving away from the necessary element of our education system, which is enabling students to learn and gain knowledge, and turning them into professional test takers? How is that going to help them upon graduation?
Another example is Superintendent Trisha Kocanda of Winnetka Public Schools in Illinois has written a letter “warning” parents, community members and district staff about the PARCC Common Core exam that students in the state will be taking this spring. An excerpt from her letter outlines the challenges of the implementation of PARCC:
“As we learn more about the assessment, we grow wary. We are concerned about the amount of instructional time it will displace, the impact this will have on students, and the usefulness of the results… Below is a summary of key PARCC facts that have prompted many of our concerns:
The PARCC testing experience will take approximately 13-14 hours for students in grades 3-8. By contrast, the ISAT took no more than seven hours to administer.
The test is computer-based and requires students to manage multiple screens, prompts, and tools while typing their responses in a timed situation. By contrast, STAR, a local assessment tool already in place, is taken online but requires a single response on a single screen. The difference in complexity is vast for students.
1) Because only one test unit will be administered per day, this means students will be taking the test over a two-week time period. This results in a number of interrupted instructional days for our children.
2) Although we will not be teaching new content for the test, students will need to familiarize themselves with the new online testing experience and complexities. We estimate that this introduction to the test will take approximately two to three hours.
3) The test will be completed in the computer labs. Most regularly scheduled classes will not take place in these learning spaces for approximately six weeks this spring.
Every student will react to the test in a unique way. We anticipate that the length of the test, the excessive rigor, and the extended change to routine will be uncomfortable for some or many of our students.
Speed of Implementation:
PARCC is being administered statewide after a one-year pilot, and closely on the heels of the Common Core State Standards implementation. Materials, including instructions for proctors, sample questions, and technical requirements, are still being revised. Since the preparation window is relatively short, test logistics have been the primary focus of the tech staff, the administrative team, and building principals since late fall.”
Jennifer Rickert is a sixth-grade teacher, who has worked for 22 years in the Ichabod Crane Central School District in New York State. During a speech to the Board of Education in her district, Rickert summarizes how she originally embraced the Common Core Standards, but has seen the devastating effects of how they have been implemented in the state of New York. She explains why these tests are not appropriate for students:
“I read the “New York State Testing Program’s Educator Guide to the 2015 Grade 6 Common Core English Language Arts Test,” and I sobbed. I am so disturbed by the descriptions of the test in this guide that I find myself in deep moral conflict regarding the administration of the 2015 Common Core English Language Arts Test to my students.
My students are 11- and 12-years-old. They are at the cognitive level that Jean Piaget, revered cognitive theorist, characterized as “concrete-operational,” meaning they can think logically about concrete events but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical situations. Yet in the guide, it states that students will “evaluate intricate arguments.”
In addition, “students will need to make hard choices between fully correct and plausible, but incorrect answers that are designed specifically to determine whether students have comprehended the entire passage.” This is not developmentally appropriate for my students, and I find it cruel and harmful to suggest that it is. I do not believe in knowingly setting my students up for failure. I cannot remain silent for one more day without speaking up for my students.”
The points that these educational professionals bring up do not go unnoticed to me—a parent. What I am hearing, from people in the middle of this, who probably have a much better understanding of it than I (or federal or state legislators) do, is that schools are being strong-armed into implementing tests which may not be developmentally or socially appropriate, with questions designed to trick students with plausible, yet wrong answers; being forced to send out threatening letters to parents who have the right to opt their children out of PARCC; not providing the feedback necessary to comply with the PARCC’s own purpose or in a timely manner; evaluating or even dismissing teachers based on the ambiguous results of tests that we don’t know who is grading, what data is being collected and why, or how the data is being used?
I respectfully ask the legislators in the Ohio House of Representatives, The Ohio Senate, Governor Kasich, and the Ohio Department of Education to re-evaluate and overturn our state’s adoption of the Common Core Standards, their implementation thereof, and alliance as part of PARCC consortium. Until permanent measures can be taken to rid Ohio of Common Core and PARCC, I ask that you fully support HB 7 and other common sense bills that can provide temporary relief from these standards and testing, thereby protecting our children and teachers.
Gina Young, Concerned Parent and Licensed Teacher by the State of Ohio
Let the legislators in Ohio know that you want Common Core and PARCC repealed. Sign the online PETITION: or copy and paste into your web browser: www.change.org/p/john-kasich-repeal-common-core-parcc