Saturday, February 14, 2015

Response to Atlantic Monthly Article "Suburbia and its Common Core Conspiracy Theories

The author proves the most salient point about the criticism of the direction of education, including NCLB, Common Core, PARCC, etc. She is not an educator, she is a political scientist, and she pretends that she know about what is best for schools because, what, she went to school? She taught college? There is a huge pot here thrown together as if there are two sides here, pro and con Common Core and PARCC. Most educators I know, and I am a school administrator and former teacher and counselor, are in favor of more consistency in education. The find it ridiculous that biology taught in Arkansas is so different than that taught in NJ, or worse yet, in the classroom next door. There is an acceptance that things like a model like the CC or having common assessments, on balance, will improve education. There is also a desire to move away from rote memorization to more nuanced understanding, such as that measured by the PARCC. But with that does not come an unquestioning trust in those that are creating and implementing this assessment system. The greatest error is the downplaying of the burden of the PARCC on schools. There is a huge difference from the past. The high school graduation requirement in NJ was 3 days of testing one time in HS. Now it is 9 days of testing every year of high school. That is 3 vs. 27 days of disrupted education. In addition, the complexity of administering and using this test is mind boggling. It has required EVERY school to spend millions of dollars on infrastructure to allow every student to test on computers. We have spent countless hours at our school preparing for this test, as the expense of overseeing instruction, responding to parents, etc. The test format itself is a nightmare. Even adults who take this have a huge problem navigating the multiple screens and tools needed to complete the test. The test is also really hard. Which is not a bad thing for the students who are abstract thinkers and who do not have high test anxiety. But for the concrete thinkers, unfortunately, most kids, this will be a miserable process. But the most salient question of this test is WHY? Why are we having these kids and schools do this? The teachers won't get the results until after the kids are in another classroom, so it certainly isn't to improve instruction. It is clearly so that bureaucrats can assess, and some believe punish, schools and teachers. We were told that this test would not be a graduation requirement, and, before the ink was dry, it was listed in NJ as a graduation test. Perhaps the most salient issue is whether all this dedication of time, student, teacher and administrator, and money is worth the return. I will bet you that the scores on this test correlate almost perfectly with prior, shorter, simpler tests and that they correlate much higher with parental income than differences in schools or teachers. The whole movement of accountability assumes that the lack of performance is more affected by teacher quality than things like parental oversight and economic well being. That is the most salient objection to this whole charade.

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