Opt-outs, refusals, and rebuttals

I’ve been talking about the PARCC since August. Early this week, CPS announced that all students in grades 3-8th would be given the test. And now everyone else is (finally?) talking about the PARCC with me.

Ultimately, it’s up to The Girl and The Boy (The Tot Who’s Not is as-yet too young) as to whether or not they take the test. If I had my way, they would opt-out. If The Dad had his way, they’d take the test. So we are very split in our household and we have spent countless hours this week talking this over.

The way the law is currently set, parents cannot opt their children out and the state/ district / school can mandate the test. I disagree with this, but in this case, because I have children who can talk and advocate for themselves, they can make the decision for themselves. The Girl is resolute: she will not take the test. She took 4 hours of NWEA testing last month*, and we’re both waiting for differentiation to materialize, so I can’t say that I blame her. (Unbeknownst to me until today, she’s been running her own little persuasion campaign among her classmates, suggesting that they also refuse the test.) The Boy has already aced his sample / prep for 6th grade ELA and he wants to take it. (I suspect this cheerfulness may peter out around day 2 of the testing window.)

If I got to choose and my opinion was the only one that mattered, I would opt The Boy and The Girl out of taking PARCC, specifically, and any high-stakes standardized tests generally. Here’s why:

  • The test has never been normed. That means our state pays for the test and then our kids take it and then Pearson gets the cash from aggregating and norming the data as they resell the test to other states / districts next year.
  • Too many standardized tests already. The Girl estimates that she’ll spend 22+ hours this year in standardized tests. She’s in 4th grade. Note that she didn’t include regular classroom assessments in her calculation — only time spent in STEP, NWEA, PARCC, REACH, etc.
  • Data is a snapshot in time, not useful for anything for The Boy or The Girl. NWEA is an interim assessment; PARCC is a summative one. NWEA spits out the results in less than two weeks; the results can inform a teacher’s instruction of my child in that year (maybe, if we’re lucky). PARCC results will be like the ISAT scores — you get them 6-8 months later. How are you supposed to use that?
  • I don’t think the mayor (any mayor) can take another political nightmare of changing the SEHS-eligibility to the PARCC. The uproar after the Diocese was told that its kids had to take the NWEAs instead of the Terra Novas is not one that anyone with a brain wants to repeat.
  • How much test prep practice does a kid need? And how young? As my daughter said, “By the time I’m going to college, there will probably a whole ‘nother test required for admission.”
  • Because there’s nothing tied to it this year, it’s like last year’s ISAT – what’s the point?
  • I am absolutely against the idea of using student test scores to evaluate teachers (VAT = 30% of teacher evaluations) and I don’t want my kids’ test scores to be used for that purpose.
  • I took the sample 3rd grade ELA and it is freaking hard. If that is what the standards say a 3rd grade kid should know, I would suggest that CCSS are too rigorous. My children don’t need another measuring stick / anxiety inducer. Most children don’t need this added stress.
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