This morning, the editorial board at the Press of Atlantic City published a piece that compares widespread, bipartisan, and surging resistance to the Common Core-aligned PARCC exams to other “anxiety attacks” to which Americans are evidently prone. Their conclusion: “Relax, folks.”
How shortsighted, condescending, dismissive, and ignorant.
My first question, obviously, is this: what authority does the editorial board at the Press of Atlantic City have to comment on the test-refusal movement that’s sweeping New Jersey? Are there any education experts on the board? Any parents of public school children? And how carefully have the board members researched, tracked, and evaluated the very real and very alarming concerns that are driving the test-refusal movement?
As I am not a regular reader of the Press of Atlantic City, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I am, however, shocked at the arrogance it takes for an editorial board to proclaim that four legislative bills that have bipartisan support–and that have generated extraordinary public participation in the legislative process–are “unnecessary.” I’m shocked at the arrogance it takes for an editorial board to call what most would label a public-education crisis as “hoo-ha.” And perhaps most importantly, I’m shocked at the arrogance and ignorance it takes for an editorial board to suggest that people “relax” and “withhold judgment and give the test a try.”
Actually, New Jersey parents, educators, and taxpayers have “give[n] the test a try.” Take the PARCC events are being conducted all over the state, and at such events, glaring problems with both the test and the technology it requires have been exposed. People with PhDs have attempted the PARCC and decried its content and construction and have expressed doubt about whether they themselves would earn a passing scores. Literacy experts like Russ Walsh have determined that the tests are designed to fail students because the reading levels of test passages are inappropriate for children in many grades. Teachers have been in-serviced on the PARCC tests and instructed by their superiors–who feel virtually threatened by the NJDOE–to directly teach to the PARCC tests. And just this week, schools that began administering the PARCC tests early ran into “glitches” that forced them to cancel testing altogether for the day.
(I wonder if members of the Press of Atlantic City editorial board have attended any Take the PARCC events–or even tried, independently, the practice tests that are available online. If so, I’d be interested to hear their reactions–and see their scores.)
We’ve also seen, firsthand, the ways in which the PARCC tests have forced a narrowing of the curriculum, promoted cuts in academic and extracurricular programs, impeded children’s natural love of learning, and required districts to spend hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars to comply with the NJDOE’s unfunded mandates.
And let’s not forget to mention the problems with Pearson, the British for-profit corporation that produces and scores the tests (actually, people who respond to Craigslist solicitations score the tests for $11/hour) and has a decades-long history of test-construction and scoring errors and millions in payouts in legal settlements.
Has the Press of Atlantic City editorial board considered any of this–or that more than a dozen states that initially signed up for PARCC dropped it before they could even administer the tests?
The board the goes on to blame “special interest groups” like the Tea Party and the NJEA for the widespread test resistance that’s happening in New Jersey, but in what is perhaps the most offensive paragraph in the piece, the board concludes this:
And the parents who say the test is making their children anxious are also overstating their case, in our opinion. Schools have been giving standardized tests — and students have been anxious about them — for decades. And if truth be told, parents and teachers have a lot to do with inducing that anxiety.
Yes, it’s true that standardized tests have been around for decades; adults who went through public schools before the NCLB testing craze began likely remember the low-stakes CAT or IOWA tests–or elective, higher-stakes tests like the SATs. The punitive testing we’re experiencing under NCLB and RTtT, though, is nothing like anything we have ever seen, and the damage it’s doing is unprecedented.
Blaming that damage on parents and teachers is immeasurably reckless, irresponsible, and insulting.
But I suppose that only people who have an actual understanding of the educational process, the complexity of child development, and the implications of the PARCC assessment–and not people who sit in behind news desks and blindly direct those who are wholeheartedly invested in and concerned for our children, teachers, and public schools to “relax”–would understand why.