Sunday, May 4, 2014

Problems with PARCC and Pearson

Again, it's not really about the standards (Common Core State Standards CCSS) - though there should be an understanding of why people are weary of the standards that were adopted by states via their governors and state officials without consultation with their teachers, teachers association, administrators, and parents.

The more serious and substantial concerns are coming from parents and educators who challenge an increasingly intrusive and burdensome system of state (and federal) mandated standardized assessments. More and more parents are taking the serious step of "opting their kids out" of the state assessments, as Kristin Kidd of Colorado recently did when she "Let My Kids [Play] Hooky from School Tests." Of course, it wasn't all tests: her kids took tests like MAPS, DRA2, Explore, and others which did not intrude as much on instructional time, and which aren't being used to create a more collective system of accountability. And, perhaps as important, those tests weren't the sole control of Pearson, Inc.

Despite the claims by Bill Gates and other reformers that the new system of assessment would open up a field of competition to create the best tests, the huge multinational testing corporation (out of Great Britain) has basically devoured the PARCC testing consortium. With dozens of states testing millions of students, this contractual victory is worth billions of dollars to Pearson. And critics are calling foul over the lack of oversight and accountability for the test. Basically, people are wondering who is going to evaluate the tests and their reliability. Because Pearson has more than a few problems in its past regarding the authenticity of its tests.

The reality is that this PARCC testing system (and SmarterBalanced for other schools preferring a vegetable spread to a standardized test) has become a behemoth of control over the nation's schools. And that has happened with very little transparency regarding the tests. As some states have withdrawn and asserted autonomy over their tests, other states like Colorado have faced very close party-line votes that ultimately left the PARCC test and Pearson in control.

Of course, that doesn't mean that students and parents like Kristin Kidd won't fight back next year - and the nation could see a massive parental opt out movement, the likes of which has never been seen.

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