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vox.com: PARCC Tests Are “Working”!

April 13, 2014

On April 11, 2014, vox.com, a supposedly “data-driven news site started this month (April 2014) by Ezra Klein, ” posted this propagandastic wonder regarding Partnership for Assessment for College and Careers (PARCC) field testing.

Note that field testing does not begin to touch the magnitude of actual PARCC testing designed for grades K-12 (see here and  here and here), quite the profit-garnering arm of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The piece is entitled, Common Core Tests Are in Classrooms– And They’re Actually Working.

That depends upon what one considers “working” to be.

If “working” is the cutting of non-tested (and therefore, less valued) school courses, programs and staff in order to feed the testing monster, then yes, the “tests are working.” I teach high school English. For the past three years, at the end of the year, I have heard my administration say, “We’re going to lose another teacher,” meaning another full-time English position was to be cut. I heard that statement again several weeks ago when an administrator explained to me why my Teaching Academy course– a statewide program created over a decade ago to spark interest among high school students in teaching as a career– would be cut next year.

The day that I received the news, I saw shipments of new computers arriving in our library. It turns out that our district was required to purchase these computers from “state approved sources” in an arrangement out state board of education made with some fortunate technology company.

Each computer cost the district $1100. Our school alone has seven computer labs. Each lab seats approximately 20 to 30 students. Three are classroom labs, and all did not require new computers, but some did. (I learned on 04-14-14 that classroom computers are paid for with Perkins funds.)

Gotta be “PARCC ready.”

Big money– all spent on shiny new computers required for PARCC testing.

Three years ago, our school library that served 1800 students lost two of its three librarians.

That library was closed for three days last week in order to accommodate standardized testing.

A school of 1800 students without library access for three days.

For a number of my students needing to conduct research online, I “became” the library and used my classroom computer to assist flustered students without library access with their research.

A teacher’s ability to accommodate students in the moment in an effort to overcome a lack of resources appears on no teacher evaluation rubric that I know. Yet I find myself working to “do more with less” as so-called education reform demands ever more of classroom teachers.

PARCC is a major part of the school system money bleed.

However, according to vox.com, those PARCC tests are “working.”

There is another component of the money-bleed “working” that concerns the cost of the PARCC tests. Last I priced them, each was $29.50 per student. No new price has been calculated given that some states have dropped PARCC. The price cited above had PARCC membership at 20 states. As of February 2014, PARCC was down to 17 states and DC.

In the April 2014 vox.com article, the number of PARCC states is noted as 14.

Fewer members –> higher cost per test.

I learned the above economic truth in a traditional public school classroom absent any high-stakes standardized testing.

And now, watch this public school graduate do some more “real life” math:

$29.50 per test x 1800 students = $53,100. And that is for my school alone.

In 2014, Louisiana had over 727,000 students enrolled in public school.

The cost to administer PARCC to even half of those students (363,500) at $29.50 per test is $10.7 million dollars.

That sum could pay my current annual salary ($58,000) for almost 185 years.

In Maryland, the number of PARCC test takers is estimated to rise from 301,036 to 1,144,448.

1,144,448 x $29.50 = $33,761,216.

$33.76 million is enough to pay my annual salary to 582 teachersfive times the faculty and staff at my high school of 1800 students– yet that is the estimated cost of PARCC exams for a single state.

We haven’t even broached the cost of technology upgrades such as bandwidth requirements– which a single county in Maryland estimated to cost $3 million.

Another Maryland county estimated that the infrastructure upgrades would take over two years to accomplish.

All for an overpriced test.

Maryland’s total estimated cost to prepare for PARCC by 2015 is $100 million.

Maryland’s estimated cost in classroom instructional time lost to PARCC testing is also steep:

Total time (in minutes) devoted to [Maryland] state standardized testing will increase with the PARCC exams by:

– Grade 3:    73 percent (277 vs 480)
– Grade 4:   102 percent (276 vs 560)
– Grade 5:   90 percent (297 vs 565)
– Grade 6:   95 percent (289 vs 565)
– Grade 7:   84 percent (306 vs 565)
– Grade 8:   83 percent (308 vs 565)

So yes, PARCC is “working”– for mega-companies like Pearson and Educational Testing Service (ETS), the companies awarded PARCC contracts for item development.

For students and teachers who value actual time in the classroom teaching and learning– not so much.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the two CCSS copyright owners, has a CEO whose background is not in classroom teaching but in assessment– and who has connections to Pearson. His name is Chris Minnich, and based on the vox.com article, Minnich believes that PARCC is “working.”

According to Minnich:

Even in states where we’re having some conversations about the standards, these tests are going on and teachers are teaching to these new standards.

Needless to say, Minnich’s CCSSO is really pushing CCSS.

After all, PARCC “works” for Pearson.

Not only has Pearson paid financial support to CCSSO; Pearson is involved in all aspects of CCSS– including the development of student standardized assessments and assessments for teachers in training.

Which brings us to vox.com’s happy point that PARCC will be used for teacher evaluations– but vox.com’s list of potential problems with using student test scores to evaluate teachers is short and fails profoundly to note the utter failure of such “value-added modeling” (VAM) in supposedly determining teacher contribution to student “outcomes.”

Why bother with the reality of a damaging VAM?

If the profit margin is obese, one can easily compose a CCSS- and PARCC -friendly piece of propaganda; post it with a picture of three children at computers, and declare that PARCC Is Working.

A note to vox.com’s Ezra Klein:

Ezra.

Your piece on PARCC “working” is so bad that I wanted to scrape it off of the bottom of my shoe before stepping on my carpet.

In order to write a factual piece, one must use facts. I know, I know, you made Pearson et al. happy with this drivel, but do try to offer your readers something that demonstrates that you aren’t yet another who tells the corporate reform set to just leave the money on the nightstand.

 

 

 

 

21 Comments
  1. ColoMom permalink

    Mercedes, thank you for pointing out this “pay for play” blog. As for PARCC working: A little transparency would be nice. Schools are forced to purchase the computers and subject kids and teachers to this test that NO ONE has ever seen and apparently, never will. They don’t plan on ever releasing the questions. … “Since a main purpose of field testing is to winnow down and perfect questions for next year’s testing, it’s unlikely that any questions will ever be made public.” With enough smoke., mirrors, and money, anything can look pretty. #LipStickOnaPig

  2. Working so well that even normally comfortable and affluent parents are taking to the streets in NYC.

  3. 2old2tch permalink

    Success for Vox appears to be totally based on an analysis of the number of technical glitches. To them, this year’s testing is simply one big field test of “the Machine.” They are not really concerned about the human factor. Since no one is supposed to share any information on the actual content of the tests, the analysis of the tests will ignore the human element and rely exclusively on what their numbers tell them. The good little lab rats are not of concern.

  4. Thank goodness. I started to look at that and I just couldn’t wade into it. This and Nate Silvers FiveThirtyEight both launched with bad CCSS coverage right out of the gate, but this was by far the more odious puff piece.

  5. P. Schwarz permalink

    Mercedes – one of our TFAs teaching 9th grade English in St. Bernard (who happens to be a really nice guy, a born teacher, & a cooperative team player – regardless of the team) appeared before us looking uncharacteristically dejected last week. Upon inquiry, we learned that after he had (more than graciously) agreed to give up 3 days of teaching time to administer the pilot of the PARCC Assessment in response to a specific request from Central Office. However, he was surprised to be informed just as his students began testing that HE would receive NO DATA AT ALL on their performance on the pilot assessment. My first thought on hearing this was how our district superintendent & her right hand are always justifying their constant offering of our students as guinea pigs to “test the Test” with the claim that “well, at least we will be informed & in the loop on what is coming…” I wondered how they would justify agreeing to this NO DATA arrangement. However, it has now occurred to me that perhaps this NO DATA policy is not from PARCC, but from our district superintendent. After the NY results, any administrator should be afraid to release the data on PARCC pilot performance for fear that teachers will figure out just how bad the future is going to be it is going to be. Any answers or insights on this, Mercedes??

    • Peggy, a pilot test is a test of the test, not of the students. So, not using the data to assess student performance is correct. This field test is only doing PARCC a favor. Your super would have known so and should have clearly communicated as much prior to testing.

  6. P. Schwarz permalink

    BTW – after 4 years of successful teaching, this young, enthusiastic & talented teacher has yet to decide if he is coming back to teach next year. A few of our younger state-certified teachers are also leaving the teaching profession altogether, or at least, “public” school for easier jobs (that aren’t so thankless!) The first major wave of teacher attrition due to the onslaught of Jindalism & CCSS was among the potential retiree set, but now it seems to be hitting the young teachers hard.

    • Peggy, TFA by design is a temp arrangement. When they arrive, they know they “get” to leave in two years to pursue their “real” careers. Otherwise, they would have majored in Ed.

      As for running off other newbies, that feeds into the plan to turn teaching into a nonprofession. More temp TFA needed. No pensions to pay. Constant churn. TFA in demand to fill the void, and TFA always making money.

  7. PARCC IS working. It is the driving force that will transition classroom teachers OUT and computers IN. DATA driven individual education plans IN.

  8. I always love reading your thoughtful, in depth analysis of problems in the current educational climate. Well done.

  9. Laura h. Chapman permalink

    Your math is impressive. On statewide tests, it is not unusual for about 10% of the items to there only for field testing, not counted in the score for the student but with enough “big data” from all the test-takers to judge whether the item is worded in a way that yields a range of scores (called stretch).
    Also, it would be interesting to know if school officials who are extracting “free” field tests for PARCC are getting reimbursed for this recruiting effort or if they, and the teachers recruited, have received any other “perk.” The teacher and the students have learned nothing other than how to take to the test….again.

    • Laura, the PARCC tests are “stand-alone” field tests. It is better to incorporate new items into current tests so that students treat items seriously. Stand-alone tests hold not risk for kids. Thus, the stand-alone field test doe not replicate an authentic testing experience.

      As for money to teachers offering the field test: I was scheduled to administer PARCC, and I was offered no money. As it turns out, our counselors ended up administering the test. Not sure if the school or district recouped bucks for the field test or if the testing is expected of PARCC member states.

  10. sprawler47 permalink

    In a viral blog post, a Colorado public school teacher resigned from her position as a high school English teacher in protest to Common Core standards.
    http://foxnewsinsider.com/2014/04/14/viral-colorado-english-teacher-slams-common-core-standards-resignation-letter

    Pauline Hawkins wrote in part:

    “I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am supposed to do as a teacher – I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students. Students have increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves because they have been programmed to believe that there is one right answer that they may or may not have been given yet. That is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students “right” answers, so students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught students what the standards have deemed are a proper education.”

    Hawkins has been teaching for 11 years at Liberty High School in Colorado Springs, but her tenure will come to an end when the school year ends. The Common Core standards have frustrated many teachers around the country after being created by the National Governors Association and adopted in 44 states.

  11. Louisiana Purchase permalink

    Our entire state is field testing the AIR test this year (I am in Utah). Next year, Florida is “renting” our questions. The tests are so long that we cannot get into the library or ANY computer lab (including, in some cases, the keyboarding classes) for six weeks, until the last week of the school year. Having the library available two days a weeks would at least be better than that, not that it’s any consolation.

    • Libraries need to be available for students, period. Teachers should not have to say to one another, “At least you have your library for two days a week.”

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Common Core Conflicts Of Interest from Massachusetts to NC | Lady Liberty 1885
  2. Schneider Corrects Ezra Klein about PARCC | Diane Ravitch's blog
  3. Schneider Corrects Ezra Klein about PARCC | Educational Policy Information
  4. Links 5/8/14 | Mike the Mad Biologist

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