Proponents of the controversial Common Core aligned PARCC test suggest that it is a “more rigorous” standardized test and will create better students. But a closer look at supporters’ claims raises many questions.
First of all, the “rigor” of the exams has proven difficult to measure, as only samples of the PARCC test questions have been released.
Colorado mandated that all schools administer the PARCC test without knowing exactly what is on the test, as even state officials only have access to sample questions, and not the questions that students themselves will face.
PARCC is a new, unproven, unfunded, state-wide test to be taken on computers, multiple times per year. The test has been adopted by many states across the nation, thereby rendering it a national test of sorts. The states that have adopted the Common Core Standards and PARCC, have done so under federal pressure — states could not receive Race To The Top (RTTT) funding without doing so.
Since the inception of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), we have been adding to the pile of standardized tests that our students must hurdle over. We overuse and over-emphasize standardized tests. PARCC adds to the problem, with lost classroom time, exorbitant cost– some districts are spending millions of dollars on the infrastructure and computers necessary to take this PARCC test — and high-stakes pressure on both students and teachers alike.
But where is the evidence that this reliance on standardized tests is producing better outcomes for our students? Despite this increase in the use of standardized tests, postsecondary remediation rates continued to climb from 2012 to 2013.
Colorado began field-testing PARCC last week. Colorado teachers have been leaving feedback on both the PARCC exams and the TCAPS on the website Testing Talk; the reviews are not positive. New York piloted the PARCC field test earlier this year and also found multiple problems; the results there showed that under Common Core-aligned tests, the achievement gap actually widens.
Standardized tests fail to accurately measure knowledge; rather, results can be predicted based on income and race. . The tests are snapshots, and don’t take into account other factors: ability to navigate a computer; having an “off” day, being tired/sick; having issues outside the classroom, etc. High school GPAs are a more reliable predictor of college readiness than the SAT, another prominent standardized text. And, as per American Statistical Association (ASA) findings, evaluating teachers based on students’ standardized test scores is highly questionable.
Coloradans are fed up with standardized testing. Parents are now taking a stand, opting their students out of the exams. They know PARCC tests are predicted to take longer and can be given up to four times per year. By comparison, the TCAPS are administered only once a year.
In a landmark vote, the Colorado State Board of Education (SBE) recently voted against PARCC testing in our state, and has asked the state legislature to repeal the law requiring PARCC assessments. The board agrees that testing is excessive and has commissioned a study on the amount and types of assessments used in Colorado classrooms. A bill currently in the General Assembly, HB14-1202, which was intended to allow schools alternatives to the PARCC tests, was weakened after political pressure and has morphed into another study on Colorado’s assessments. A similar bill that would have delayed the implementation of PARCC and Common Core, SB14-136, was killed earlier this season by the same political parties. A proposed amendment to HB14-1202 proposes to delay PARCC, keeping TCAPs, for one year. One more year of TCAP would give Colorado educators and families time see what PARCC is and if we want it for our state. This delay would not cost the state additional money.
Common Core and PARCC also help schools and districts collect data, of all sorts — not just academic. This video from the White House Education Datapalooza shows how companies like Pearson (who made the PARCC test) collect “hidden” data on children, “by tagging every sentence, down to the atom.”
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) captures this data and more from other tests and observations including home life, mental health, behavioral, pictures and videos taken throughout the school year, and packages the data, creating a “single golden record” for each student that combines data from schools and school districts, workforce and social service agencies, and corrections agencies. Watch the CDE video here.
This data collection happens without parents’ approval. Parental consent is not necessary; in fact, parents cannot prohibit their child’s data being collected or shared, often with third party vendors. A Fordham University study finds “there are serious deficiencies” in student data security; the data is not safe and can be breached. Lawsuits, such as one from the public interest research center EPIC’s, challenge this data collection and the weakened FERPA regulations.
This government document explains that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws were changed and can now be bypassed. You can find the exact words in this clip.
Student profiling often happens in other countries – Singapore, for instance:
“Singapore’s government instituted the practice of streaming (or tracking) students based on their academic ability from elementary school onward. After six years of primary-school education, Singaporean students take a test that determines whether they’ll be placed in a special school for the gifted, a vocational school or a special education program, and another test later determines their higher-ed options.”
This tracking sounds eerily like what CDE and the White House have described as their goals for American children. Obtaining this type of personal and predictive, behavioral data without parental consent is clearly questionable. In fact, Nevada Department of Education allowed parents to opt out of their Common Core-aligned field tests due to concerns over data collection and privacy.
What is the answer to all this testing madness? To stop. Why rush into PARCC? Are there special interests and politics at play? If we feel we need rigorous standardized tests, why not rigorously review them before implementing?
Fordham University’s Chester Finn believes PARCC will wither away and be replaced by something else. In fact, seventeen states have backed out of these Common Core-aligned tests. Colorado could make its own state assessment based on what our teachers actually teach.
Whatever the test, students should take it much less frequently. High performing countries like Finland take only one standardized test in high school. Why not find a balance and test only a portion of students, staggering the tests at different grades? Rather than test every child, every year, we could follow the respected NAEP protocol of random sampling. Too much classroom time is lost preparing for and taking so many of these high-stakes standardized tests. Testing is not teaching: let teachers teach.
Allow teacher and parent input, and keep our decisions local. Colorado is a local control state. Give control back to our school boards and teachers, where it belongs. Our state legislators hold this power. We, the taxpayers and voters, hope they will support CDE and the people of Colorado. Repeal or at least delay the PARCC exams, review standards, require parental consent on children’s data.
We also call upon Governor Hickenlooper to sign legislation if sent to him. In a recent interview with Mike Rosen, the Governor, at 27 minutes, agreed that testing is excessive and said he would be willing to help delay PARCC, involving parents in the process. Hickenlooper went on to say, “We can opt out of all kinds of things in Common Core.”
Thank you, Governor. We sincerely hope that the General Assembly will send you such a bill and that you will follow through.
Editor’s Note: This First Person article is in response to a previous First Person article written by State Board of Education member, Elaine Gantz Berman.
This post is endorsed by the following people and organizations:
Cheri Kiesecker, Fort Collins, Colorado
Kristin Tallis, Fort Collins, Colorado
Aimie Randall, Loveland, Colorado
Steve Yon – Castle Rock CO
Kari Newsom – Littleton CO
Adelia Darlene Herrera – Larkspur CO
Eric Lee Herrera – Larkspur CO
Justin Collier Herrera Larkspur CO
Crystal Coleman – Castle Rock CO
Maren Kay Neises – Larkspur, Co
Mary Denise Babcock – Littleton CO
Karla Mount – Castle Rock CO
Matt Wiebe, Fort Collins, Colorado
Deanna Masciantonio-Miller, Kiowa, Colorado
Belinda Seville, Centennial, Colorado
Ryan Smith, Kiowa, Colorado
Courtney Smith, Kiowa, Colorado
Candy Putch, Elizabeth, Colorado
Cameron Rau, Loveland, Colorado
Elodji Means, Elizabeth , Colorado
Kimerly Lutte, Elizabeth , Colorado
William Lutter, Elizabeth , Colorado
Dr. Dave Barton, Castle Rock, Colorad
Kathy Welch,Colorado Springs, Colorado
Connie Miller, Kiowa, Colorado
Matt Kaiser, Elizabeth , Colorado
Kelly Kaiser, Elizabeth , Colorado
John Seville -Elizabeth , Colorado
Kathryn Seville – Loveland, Colorado
Natalie Adams, Littleton, Colorado
John Sampson, Strasburg School Board, Colorado
Julie Williams, Jefferson County School Board, Colorado
Rudy Zitti, Fort Collins, Colorado
Elizabeth McManus, Elbert , Colorado
Judith Casey, retired Elementary Principal, 54 yers public Education, Colorado Springs
Heidi Wolfgang, Canon City, Colorado
Jennifer Raiffie, Denver, Colorado
Toni Walker, Loveland, Colorado
Katrina Kochim, Grand Junction, Colorado
Maureen Sielaff, Littleton, Colorado
Cathy Gardino, Falcon, Colorado
Sheila Brown, Arvada, Colorado
Barb Hulet, Olathe, Colorado
Anita Stapleton, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Mike Stapleton, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Angelique Matthews, Colorado Springs
Jack Matthews, Colorado Springs
Stephanie Engel, Milliken, Colorado
Deborah Scheffel, Colorado Board of Education
Senator Vicki Marble, District 23, Colorado
Representative Chris Holbert, District 44, Colorado
Representative Justin Everett, District 22, Colorado
Representative Dan Nordberg, District 14, Colorado
Core Concerns, Northern Colorado
Stop Common Core Colorado
Coloradoans Against Common Core
Parents’ Voice for JeffCo
Northern Colo. Parents Against Common Core
Fremont County RE-1
Stop Common Core Colorado
Parent Led Reform National
Parent Led Reform Colorado
United Opt Out National