High stakes standardized tests are about profit— not education: Opt-out of the PARCC

I hope that all my students will go on to be a part of a new generation that accomplishes amazing things by finally solving social issues such as child hunger, rampant drug addiction, stubbornly persistent segregated housing, economic volatility and global warming. In order to creatively problem-solve such issues, and the many others that face our world today, our students will need a set of skills that no standardized test can accurately assess.”————— Anthony Capetta, math teacher at Lindbloom H.S. from his article Passing the PARCC test is the wrong goal

The PARCC  standardized test is coming to Chicago and already Chicago’s education justice movement is gearing up to organize parents, teachers and concerned community members to refuse the test as part of a national opt-out movement. PARCC stands for “Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers”.

Anthony CappettaAnthony Cappetta

More than a Score, a Chicago-based group opposed to testing abuse, held a strategy meeting in early December to make plans for an “opt-out” of the PARCC. The group plans to hold public meetings and provide materials that will help Chicago teachers and parents “Park the PARCC.”

Tests like the PARCC are called high-stakes tests because student futures, teachers’ jobs and whether schools are closed or privatized can ride on their results. Yet tests like the PARCC cannot possibly measure actual education. Answering a series of multiple choice questions cannot assess inspiration, creativity, exploration, curiosity, collaboration, persistence or future achievement.

As a  CPS parent and education justice activist, Zerlina Smith is opposed to high stakes testing and the role it plays in the corporate attempt to take over public education. Instead of a rich and deep education experience, high-stakes standardized tests like the PARCC create a culture of test prep, curriculum cutbacks, high stress among students and frantic exhaustion for teachers who are deluged with endless demands for data collection.

Zerlina SmithZerlina Smith at a More than a Score public meeting

However the  tests are reasonably accurate at one thing:  predicting a student’s zip code and socio-economic status.  Students from low income neighborhoods generally do not perform as well as those from more affluent neighborhoods. This built in racial and social class bias is then used as an excuse to privatize schools and fire teachers when it is poverty that is the real problem.

The Pearson Corporation won a 1 billion dollar contract to construct the PAARC as part of Common Core, the corporate attempt to control curriculum across the nation. In his article Hi-stakes testing: The new child labor retired Chicago teacher Bob Simpson said this:

“In our Brave New World of neo-liberal capitalism, Corporate USA, as represented by companies such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill,  has turned schools into testing factories. They generate mega-profits by having kids hunched over their their computers for hours and even days at a time. Education is a big business, some estimates I have seen place it at as high as 1.3 trillion dollars.”

The Raise Your Hand organization, an Illinois education advocacy group, has called for a 1 year moratorium on the PARCC. Even Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett, not known for her opposition to standardized testing abuse, has misgivings and has  called for further study of the PARCC  before full implementation.

Last year there was an opt-out of the ISAT test. The More than a Score organization reports that at least 2000 students opted out of the test despite intimidation tactics against both parents and teachers. There were opt-outs at approximately 90 schools and two schools with teachers who refused to administer them. Despite numerous threats, there  were no official consequences for students and no teacher was disciplined.

Zerlina at Saucedo rallyZerlina Smith speaks at at a Saucedo school opt-out rally in 2014
Amara Enyia and Saucedo teacher Sarah Chambers stand with her

Zerlina plans to take part in this year’s opt-out of the PARCC test and urges other parents to consider doing the same and to support teachers who refuse to give test. Keep up with the latest news by visiting the More than a Score web site or their Facebook page

Our children’s future is more important than the profits of the Pearson Corporation.

Test takers cartoon

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Author: Quincy

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