Before the first day of PARCC testing, the results are in. Push back against indefensible state policies and the state will crack.
The special time you’ve been waiting for has at last arrived, boys and girls. It’s PARCC testing week! Think Easter but with a few key differences. Like instead of hunting for eggs, you’re after "college and career readiness." Also, those Peeps in your basket aren’t for realz but are being "piloted" to help determine what should go in your basket next year. Which is to say that it’s never a good idea to put all of the kids’ eggs in one basket, even if the state’s chief educational standards bunny happens to serve as the chair of an egg distributor.
PARCC: In an eggshell
First some answers to your questions: like is she really going to force us to endure an extended Easter metaphor that has little if any relevance to PARCC testing? No reader, because we have more important eggs to fry. You see, starting today, 200,000 young Bay Staters are taking a new, outstandingly predictive test that is so "highly aligned" with college and career readiness that the words college and career readiness are in the name of the actual test. Today’s test drive will help the state determine whether the test is the right twenty-first-century test for the state’s twenty-first-century test takers. Which raises our first high-stakes question: what about twenty-first-century test takes who refuse to take the twenty-first-century test?
In which the state clarifies its clarification
As we learned last year, "there is no provision in Massachusetts state law for parents to ‘opt out’ of the annual statewide assessment program." Last week the state clarified its position, again, to the effect that if parents should persist in exercising this non-provision, principals should gently but firmly encourage parents to rethink their refusal, reminding them "that students’ and teachers’ experiences will help the state decide whether PARCC is a worthwhile assessment." And then the kicker: "When a parent directs their child to refuse to take PARCC, they are forgoing their child’s opportunity to contribute to ESE’s evaluation of the test." As for kids who still decline the opportunity to be test drivers?
We ask principals and test proctors to handle refusals with sensitivity. Students should not be pressured to take the test, nor should they be punished for not taking the test.
About that security provision
Shall we pause briefly to assess what we’ve learned so far? For purposes of expediency I will reveal that the correct answer is "P," as in "push back against official positions that are indefensible and those positions are likely to be clarified." Speaking of which, the state’s largest teachers union pushed back hard last week against a requirement that teachers administering the new college and career readiness gauge sign a PARCC security agreement that specifies that:
Failure to abide by the terms of the agreement may result in an investigation that leads to sanctions including employment and licensure consequences, according to your state policies.
But as MTA President Barbara Madeloni noted, the agreement is as vague as it is ominous. BMad: take it away.
This agreement is on PARCC letterhead but otherwise it is unclear who the parties to the agreement are. The school district as a governmental entity does not appear anywhere in the document. The link to the full document takes you to the Pearson website. Is this an agreement with PARCC? With Pearson? With the district? Who will enforce it and how?
Within hours of receiving the MTA’s letter, the Commissioner of College and Career Readiness, Mitchell D. Chester, had backed down on the security agreement too. It seemed that teachers who are administering the PARCC test need not sign the security agreement in order to administer the PARCC test to all but those students who refuse to take it. Further clarification of the clarification is expected today. In the meantime, test administrators with questions should call the Pearson customer service and get a ticket number.
Image credit: Teachers learn about the PARCC exam. Dan Callahan