Yes, for real.
The PTA has been under a great deal of scrutiny lately, mostly because of the organization’s Gates-funded support for a host of education reforms that are categorically bad for kids, teachers, and public education.
In January, I wrote about the National PTA’s horrific decision to feature Steve Perry in its monthly publication, and more recently, the New Jersey PTA has been criticized by parents and teachers–you know, the people the organization says it represents–who are angry about all the Common Core and PARCC cheerleading the organization has been doing. (I’ll qualify this post by saying, again, that I love and appreciate my local PTA–because it directly benefits our school community. Credit for this success at the local level goes directly to our local PTA parents and the positive relationships they maintain with our town’s teachers and students.)
In addition to stumping for CCSS/PARCC on their Facebook page, NJPTA officers have been attempting to maintain a covert yet public presence at events where PARCC is discussed. Last month, Darcie Cimarusti reported that a “PTA plant” was the sole PARCC supporter in a group of over 60 parents and teachers who testified in front of the Study Commission in Jackson. If you haven’t read Darcie’s post yet, you should read it now.
The NJPTA is also behind “We Raise NJ,” a coalition that’s made up of PARCC cheerleaders like the NJSBA, NJASA, NJPSA, and NJ Chamber of Commerce. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We Raise NJ” is evidently planning a pro-PARCC “informational effort” in response to parent and teacher opposition to the tests, probably because incoming NJPTA president Rose Acerra’s believes that “there is a small group of parents making noise, but…there are more who are looking up to us to give them information.”
Let’s start with the obvious question: what authority does the NJPTA have to disseminate information about the PARCC exam? I’ve checked the organization’s list of Board Officers, and I haven’t been able to find anyone who has experience as an educator or other credentials that foster an understanding of curriculum, instruction, and/or assessment.
But who cares! Because in its quest to give out “information” about PARCC, the NJPTA is willing to text people weekly test-prep tips in advance of the assessments. Here’s what they posted on their Facebook page last night:
That’s right, people: PARCC prep should be on your daily to-do list: right up there with feeding your children and dog and respecting the environment. (Does the absence of a check-mark next to “Get ready for PARCC” suggest that the NJPTA believes parents have been negligent in this area of family life? Does the highlighting suggest that PARCC prep is more important than the chores listed above it?!)
None of my regular readers will be shocked to learn that I *immediately* signed up to get my test-prep tips, and although I’m not in the classroom now because today’s my first official day of maternity leave, I’m looking forward to sharing PARCC test-taking tips with my newborn once he arrives so I can make sure he’s College and Career Ready. (To be clear–the NJPTA texts will be test-prep tips, even though some members of “We Raise NJ” have tried to claim that teachers can’t teach to the PARCC test. If the NJPTA were interested in promoting critical thinking, it would ask parents to text “CRITICAL THINKING” instead of “PREP” to the number listed in the picture above.)
In order to get my first “tip,” I had to send the NJPTA my name and email address. I’m not sure why or what they’ll do with it, but I’m assuming my information has been added to some sort of “friends-of-PARCC” database. (#winning!) Here’s what popped up once I was completely enrolled:
A tip about using highlighters to “dissect” nonfiction passages!! Super useful.
But I wonder if the NJPTA knows that students often work with the same text for a long sequence of questions that appear on many different screens–and that any highlighting students do on any given screen is lost when they move on to the next question.
I wonder if the NJPTA understands that highlighters aren’t very effective tools for “dissecting” passages, which is why many teachers encourage annotations rather than highlighting.
And, not to split hairs, I wonder if the NJPTA has read the CCSS ELA standards for Grade 3, which require students to “ensure subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement.” (The person who composed “Tip #1” failed to recognize “child” as a singular antecedent and “them” as a plural pronoun. Whoops!)
Although I’m a *little* concerned that this NJPTA text-party is more of an effort to promote a political agenda than it is to help students succeed academically, I do encourage all parents who care about their children’s College and Career Readiness to sign up for the NJPTA’s PARCC tips. (It’ll be fun! “Hey, kids: I just got a text from the PTA! Drop your toys, find some nonfiction, and grab a highlighter!”)
And don’t worry: if you don’t like the test-prep tips the NJPTA has to offer, you can “text STOP to opt-out” of the updates. (I know!)
Or, you could consider sending an entirely different message to the organization:
P.S. Don’t forget to feed your children and the dog! Thanks.