New Jersey schools are conducting the PARCC test, and so far it has been a logistical nightmare-- there was a statewide technical breakdown earlier in the week, forcing all schools to postpone an entire day of testing; and the test has made my high school schedule a complete trainwreck, I see the same kids (first and second period) for hours and hours every day, but barely see my other classes . . . I am hoping the frustration and anger over this year's session is the death knell for this test, and that New Jersey severs its relationship with Pearson, the giant multinational company that provides the test . . . this seems to be the trend, as the consortium of states using the PARCC is down to seven; if you want to learn a bit more about Pearson, there's a great article in Wired magazine by Anya Kamentz on this topic; the piece is mainly about Pearson's ambitions to open low-cost private schools around the world, with curriculum based on their Common Core Standards, and while there may be some benefits for developing nations in allowing this-- as it relieves them of the burden of needing to set up an efficient government subsidized free education program-- there are also some Orwellian overtones when a giant profit hungry company hoping to access the 5.5 trillion dollars in global education budgetary money asserts itself . . . here are a few things from the article to think about:
1) last year in New Jersey, Pearson "monitored the social media accounts of students taking its Common Core tests and had state officials call district superintendents to have students disciplined for talking about the exam";
2) outsourcing education to a company like Pearson, who wants to open low-cost schools in small buildings, often without play areas, libraries, or any other typical school amenities (other than computers) may result in making teaching a "low-paid, transient occupation requiring little training" as just about any trained monkey could read the Pearson approved script about the Pearson approved curriculum to the students and then get them workign on their screens, while the computers collect data on their progress;
3) and then-- even scarier-- the only check on student progress "will be the tests that Pearson itself creates" . . . yikes . . . Diane Ravitch has been a proponent of the school as being one of the bastions of local democracy, but if Pearson monopolizes the curriculum, the core standards, and the tests and essentially inserts "itself into the provision of a basic human service, Pearson is subject to neither open democratic decisionmaking nor open market competition" . . .
but I assume people smarter than me are reading the writing on the wall, and I'm sure the Wired article was timed to come out during the testing period and make people aware of some of these big-picture problems (because teachers and students and parents tend to focus on the details, all the little picture stuff: the test makes students lose instructional time, it doesn't need to be on a computer, it's harder to read on a screen, it's difficult to schedule a test where everyone needs to use a computer, kids do enough testing during the course of a year, I was with the same kids for three hours Friday, then my break was cut to ten minutes, then I had a bunch of short classes and no lunch . . . I was so bewildered that I actually forgot to eat my lunch, which has never happened in my twenty years of teaching . . . etcetera) and the fact of the matter is that even if we solve all this little logistical details, and I remember to eat my lunch, it's still very scary to entrust the standards, the curriculum, and the measurement of progress to a large corporation that's not under direction from the local school board and town . . . I think most parents will agree that we can't accurately measure what is important in education-- teachers and curriculum and schools that inspire curiosity, sensitivity, social skills, passion, diligence, and perseverance-- so we make what we can measure important . . . or we let Pearson dictate what is important and then we let Pearson design instruments to measure this: yuck.