It’s a common misconception that the Hippocratic oath says, “First, do no harm.” It actually says, “I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.” If teachers had to swear by this oath and face consequences if they didn’t adhere to it, very few would be able to walk in on Monday morning and administer the PARCC test. Even trying to haphazardly prepare my students, all of who are several years behind grade level, feels harmful.
Next week, our school will begin a month long slog through the PARCC testing fiasco. Each grade level will be tested for a week, then there’s make ups, and the SBA science for 7th grade, and the SBA in Spanish Language Arts for students who’ve been in the country less than three years, and the LAS LINKS testing Spanish proficiency after we’ve just finished the WIDA ACCESS, oh, and end of course unit tests. There is little time to teach any more.
Yet, for ESL and Special Ed classes that are created at ability-level rather than grade level (meaning there are multiple grade levels in a class), I’ll spend the next three weeks without all my students together. Our learning is on hold while each week a different grade level isn’t in the room. Do I go on and re-teach each group? Do I create separate projects each week? There are no books to consult about how to approach teaching during testing when it lasts a month!
Here are other considerations. We have no access to Internet sites like Discovery Ed, streaming for short videos from Youtube, or other educational sites like Brainpop during the testing. There’s no access to Ipads, computer labs, or laptops during testing because we have to conserve our broadband. Luckily, we’ve managed to keep the library. At one point, there was talk we wouldn’t even have access to the library for three weeks.
But surely there’s something to gain, right? The information we receive will be so beneficial, so noteworthy, there’s no doubt we’ll see the great affects of this testing. Learning will be transformed and misconceptions cleared up–at least that’s what we’re told by the company and government officials who push them.
In reality, we don’t even see the PARCC scores until November, which makes them inconsequential. We don’t have the same students by that time. The kids have no consequences—except if you’re in high school and you graduate with a certificate of completion rather than a diploma, which means many of my students will drop out long before that’s a possibility.
But, I’m going to tell you a secret: I think kids learn more after the testing is over than any other time of the year. Why? There’s no pressure. Teachers start doing these amazing projects that are tied to learning but are fun. (Some might say, why don’t they do that all year long? They do on a small scale, but there’s not enough time and too much pressure to prepare for practice tests, drill students on vocabulary, complete common assessments, and take practice tests). Everyone relaxes, and it’s when you’re relaxed, you feel comfortable enough to learn. There’s joy in the students because no one is talking about tests. A colleague said in a meeting the other day he had less stress when he used to go to crime scenes and autopsy bodies than he has now as a teacher.
I’m heartened by the rumors of protest—though I realize what a headache this causes those who’ve done their best to prepare and manage the testing—because it means students are actively participating in their education, they’re as fed up with this system as some teachers are, and they want to see change, too.
Yet, I would remind them and especially their parents, none of this will change as long as people who are elected into office continue to tell voters they care for students while underfunding education at every corner, or as I witnessed on Monday, February 16, at the Roundhouse, as long as politicians extol teachers with grandiose speeches, and in the next motion vote Skandera (a person lacking any education degree or any classroom experience) into a legitimate position as Secretary of Education, thereby supporting the unfair, punitive evaluation system, which will ultimately link teacher pay to the tests.
To steal a line from Yeats, right now in the government and the PED, “the best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.”
Who really profits from all this, you wonder? Pearson, the UK based company who created PARCC, makes over a billion dollars a year. In fact, they make roughly three-fourths of their profit off the US alone. They probably spend a little of that money to promote a UK soccer team or two, the most American of sports. Isn’t it great that your tax dollars could be helping a UK soccer team win the Champion’s League?
Do you root for Man U or Chelsea?