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The PARCC Test: Exposed [excerpts deleted under legal threat from PARCC]

I love sharing others blog posting! Not because I want to share in their glory, but because the education of our children is so important and parents need to know all the back ally’s and twist and turns being used to remove our REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT and the “DUMBING” DOWN of OUR children.

At this stage of the game I cannot state strong enough how important it is to get your children enrolled in a “Home School Coalition”. Even if you have to work, “where there is a will there is a way”.  LINK I say this not because of any lack of support for teachers on my part, but because of the laws being passed by non-educators and the curriculum and standardized testing being thrown at our children. There are many very good teachers who have left the profession because of these things and would probably be glad to work with you in a coalition situation.

I, of course, cannot share this brave teachers name with you because I don’t know it, but the information is very important. Parents need to take information like this to their school boards and ask them point blank what their objective is in giving our children this type of education. Nothing says your school district cannot “opt out” when needed. Please share this article’s information far and wide across this country.

Penny For Thoughts

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through a verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well-prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backward from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9-year-olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, in the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from[deleted under legal threat by Parcc] According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th-grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” Lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon Lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4TH GRADE PROMPT #1

[deleted under legal threat by Parcc]

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9-year-olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4TH GRADE PROMPT #2

[deleted under legal threat by Parcc]

It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4TH GRADE PROMPT #3

[DELETED UNDER LEGAL THREAT BY PARCC]

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

(Dianemarie Note: The paragraph brought to my mind something David Coleman said in the beginning of the push for the CCSS in his referencing of the practice of asking the students who have just come back to school after the summer break to write a story about how they spent their summer. Coleman told a room full of teachers those type of things would no longer be done because who gives a “shit” what a kid did during their summers? This showed you that Coleman knew nothing about the education of a child and we knew for sure our kids were in trouble.)

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

So very, very sad! Sorry

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Cold Calculated Screwing with Our Kids!

On Friday, March 6, a Tampa Bay Times reporter actually called a spade a spade. His article was right on regarding how these State Superintendents/Commissioners of Education and State School Boards are messing with our kids. The article addresses Florida kids, but from what I have been reading, this article reflects back to what is happening all over America.

Parents are waking up and realizing you are using them as collateral – “future collateral” – for the corporate public private partnerships and cash cow donations to the pockets of legislators. Read and see if this fits where you live. Time to start calling them out and removing them – elected or governor appointed.

YOU ARE MESSING WITH OUR KIDS LIVES

Crayons

The Real Error Message on Florida’s Computers

by Daniel Ruth

Perhaps it is because the state is governed by a walking motherboard that so many apparatchiks in Tallahassee’s bureaucracy seem to think of the populace as automatons who bleed algorithms.

How else to explain the indifference to Florida’s schoolchildren and the unemployed who have been treated as if they were Orwellian cogs doing the bidding of Tallahassee’s grand and glorious sigh tech wizards of faux pas.

In recent years, Florida’s high priests of education have hammered away about how our little dickens need to be repeatedly tested to make sure they are reaching Socraticesque heights of brilliance and classroom accountability.

But that same degree of accountability doesn’t extend to the very agency responsible for the assessment — the Florida Department of Education, which deserves a dunce cap for its ineptitude in ensuring that if you are going to subject school children high-stakes testing, you darn well better make sure the kiddos can actually take the exam.

Last week, eighth-, ninth- and tenth-graders were supposed to take an online state-mandated writing test. But when many of the little munchkins attempted to log on to school computers to begin the exam, their gizmos locked up. Some students were kicked off the system in the middle of the test, answers were lost and still other pupils received inexplicable error messages.

Widespread technical problems plagued at least 36 counties around the state, including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco. Who cooked up this cyber practical joke? Hackers Without Borders?

It all could have been easily avoided, had only a tone-deaf Tallahassee not decided to go all “Harry Potter’s” Severus Snape. For months the state’s school superintendents had warned Education Commissioner Pam Stewart that her department’s transition to a new testing regimen was too rushed, that the state’s schools had not had time to properly implement the software for the computerized testing system. And they were ignored.

While Stewart claimed everything would be fixed, the glitches persisted.

If Tallahassee’s geniuses were truly interested in measuring student achievement rather than merely crunching numbers to create a false sense of classroom accomplishments, the Parris Island of testing would be suspended until students were assured they don’t have to worry about also having to contend with the cyber gremlins plotting against them. Fat chance.

“You’re always going to have implementation issues,” Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity, sniffed. But Legg and Stewart are ignoring the disservice they are imposing on the state’s students, whom they expect to academically and emotionally prepare for high-stakes testing, only to be told, “Sorry, the computer crashed. Come back tomorrow, or the day after that, and be prepared to go through this all over again.”

How fair is that? How can test scores from students under the additional pressure of being jerked around by state computers remotely be regarded as a reliable academic measurement? If students are expected to arrive for a test fully prepared, why isn’t the Florida Department of Education under the same mandate to have a test ready to take? Too much to ask?

Apparently so.

At the same time the Department of Education’s hamster was working overtime on the treadmill to keep its computers running, over at the oxymoronically titled Department of Economic Opportunity, out of work Floridians would be better off filing for unemployment benefits from a loan shark than expect much help from Tallahassee.

A state auditor general’s report has issued a damning indictment of DEO’s computer problems associated with its $77 million CONNECT website, which is supposed to help unemployed Floridians file for benefits.

The auditor general lambasted DEO for: requiring applicants to use their Social Security numbers to log on to the CONNECT system; mishandling some 408,356 claims; permitting 20,535 potentially ineligible claims to be paid because of dubious safeguards; consistently entering wrong data into the system; overpaying some claims; and having almost zero accountability controls in place.

Other than that, everything was fine.

But that didn’t stop DEO’s executive director Jesse Panuccio from sitting on the scathing report for weeks until he could release it in a late Friday afternoon document dump in the vain hope no one would notice he oversees Tallahassee’s answer to a Third World bus system.

What do these two stories share? When Florida’s most vulnerable populations — its schoolchildren and the unemployed in dire need of assistance — turn to their state government for help, all they get in return is, “Error Message: Invalid Proper Value.”

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/ruth-the-real-error-message-on-floridas-computers/2220373