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The Powerful, Enforced Silence Around Standardized Testing

March 14, 2015

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing takes more than ten hours for students in grades 3 through 8 to complete.

These students have spent countless hours preparing for the PARCC tests, and they have heard that the tests are important. However, they will receive no immediate, clear benefit from taking the tests. Their teachers will receive no clear, immediate information to inform instruction. By the time PARCC scores come, the school year is over, and likely another begun.

The teachers know that student scores on PARCC are meant to be used to grade them and their schools.

All of the above makes for a high-stress situation for both kids and teachers.

And once it is over, kids now know that the testing companies and departments of education are trolling social media to see if kids discuss the experience.

Such constitutes an abuse of power.

Pretend I am Pearson. I have just spent ten-plus hours with your child. You have no idea what we “talked” about, what exact ideas I have presented or how I presented them to the tender mind of your child. I can “discuss” whatever I like and present it with authority. I can promote certain people as “good and others as “bad.” I can promote products. And I can shape your child psychologically via my topics and presentation of such topics. Why, I can even collect psychological information on your child.

And once my ten-plus hours of “meetings” with your child are ended, I make it clear that I plan to monitor your child’s public discourse about the experience.

All that this does is protect me, the one already in incredible power.

You did not request that I meet with your child. Your child did not request the meeting. However, those who organized the meeting (e.g., state departments of education, in cooperation with me) have made it clear that there will be consequences if the meetings are not kept. They have also admitted that there is no direct benefit for you or your child as a result of the meeting.

Yes, you might receive a report of our meeting produced by me, but that report will be several months in coming, and its contents are chiefly meant to judge a third party– adults who are also kept in the dark about the details of the meetings (e.g., teachers and schools).

Meanwhile, in the media, those who arranged the meeting (state departments of education) are able to advertise the meeting as wholesome and good– and even as a civil right– but there will be no equally free opinion allowed from the child about his/her experience.


Now tell me again how standardized testing constitutes a “civil right”? The parties involved are clearly not equal in power, neither are they equal in their freedom to express themselves regarding the secretive testing experience.

Those calling the testing shots hold all of the power cards. We know as much because any avenue of free choice and open communication on the part of the one with lesser power– the child– has been publicly countered by policy, legislation, litigation, and other consequences.

Their tools are bribery, threats and guilt.

Such manipulations only insulate a power differential upon which test-score-driven “reform” depends.

This is indeed a time for something “civil” to level this test-indulging playing field:

Civil disobedience.




Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    YES. and it is not just the testing regime but the year to year collection and use of these test scores. well beyond the year in which the tests were administered. Just came from looking overe the SAS company “explanation” of what it does with student test scores. Easy to forget that almost everything is an “estimate” based on ASSUMPTIONS that make data crunching easier, often at the expense of meaningful information. Your fish should be a sting ray, or a shark.

  2. Reblogged this on stopcommoncorenys and commented:
    Sums it up.

  3. And there amazing thing is that PARCC, and Louisiana’s PARCC/Lite/not-likely examination booklets do not even have the old security tabs on them! You know the tabs, right… “Now students, place your pencil underneath the tab and break the tab and open your test booklet.” Saving a few dollars? Or making it easy for charters and voucher schools to cheat? Why do I say charters and voucher schools? I’m not pretending that public schools aren’t under pressure to cheat… but let’s look directly at what charters and vouchers have to gain/lose if their students don’t do well. Louisiana has already shut down recruiting for a few voucher schools, and have at least threatened to close charters that don’t score high enough. So, according to Louisiana Assistant Superintendent of Education Jessica Baghian, she’s not worried about “widespread cheating” because teachers know they can lose their “license” if they get caught cheating. Did no one tell Ms. Baghian that charter school teachers and voucher school teachers don’t even need to be certified? Perhaps she did not learn that in her 5 weeks of TFA training. See her comments and mine in and read my responses to her printed quotes in the comments below the article. #monitoredbyPearson …. aren’t we all?

  4. Kendra Tilley permalink

    This might sound like a dumb question but did parents every think of just refusing to take the prep, practice or the real PARCC test? What is wrong with people? REFUSE the darn test. REFUSE to submit your kids to this waste of time prep test. Half the year is wasted on testing and prep for testing instead of education. Stand the heck up and say I REFUSE. STARVE THE BEAST. You have what the beast needs to survive. Take away the children the beast needs to survive and the beast dies and it dies rather quickly. I would rather have my children sit home on the sofa for a year if I thought it could bring this mess to an end and it would if enough parents pulled their kids out of the system. STARVE THE BEAST and if you are not willing to do that then stop writing about it and take it on the chin like a good obedient slave. Teach your kids young how to act like a slave. I am so tired of this. The answer is right there. It is easy to see but too many want others to find the solution. If you want to you will find a way…….if not you will find an excuse. If nothing else stand up and REFUSE the darn test and the test prep. It doesn’t even count on the children’s grades so what do you have to lose. But I can tell you the school has A LOT to lose and when they start losing it they will be on their knees to the parents.

    • Deborah permalink

      Keeping kids home for tests would not be an ‘excused’ absence and you can bet districts would come down hard on that. . Parents can be fined, jailed and have their children taken from for not sending kids to school. Not many of us are willing to risk it. We’d rather hope they just survive. There will be no true choice in education as long as there are compulsory attendance laws. The state has all the power. While I would love for a criical mass of parents to register as homeschoolers – I’m skeptical it would even be allowed- laws would be changed lickety split. Don’t get me wrong- Id love to see it, but let’s cut the jugular and insist on no more compulsion.

      • Nobody said anything about keeping them home. First your Governor signed an EO that allows you to opt out. Refuse the test and send your child to school with a book. The school cannot refuse them to enter the school. You are the very reason this crap continues. YOU are the primary authority over your child’s education and it is time parents fought back instead of allowing the system to abuse your kids. Do you have no problem with your kid spending half the year testing instead of learning? So instead of trying you just give in to them. Get laws changed. You need to know the law and it appears you do not. Look up the EO JINDAL signed a few weeks ago.

  5. Our principal started wondering how to, in some way, convince all the parents to opt out their children next year. We as teachers can’t do it, the principal can’t do it…we need ALL the parents to do it. If my own children were still in school they would be refusing the test but thankfully they’re not.
    I had a slight glimmer of hope this week, though, when my mom said some of her ‘bridge’ friends (ie old ladies club) wanted their grandchildren to opt out. Yep some how it is getting through to the true voting public (active retired people), they knew the word OPT OUT and PARCC!!!! So if they nag their children enough…maybe next year!

    • calanghoff permalink

      I like this strategy. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo brought down the brutal dictatorship in Argentina in the 80’s by walking silently mid day in a public space in front of government offices protesting the disappearance of their grandchildren. Even the army couldn’t attack the abuelitas. Plenty of retired teachers are grandparents, too.

  6. Rob Voigt permalink

    I cannot help but recall a National Geographic wildlife documentary I watched as a child. In this particular scene was pictured the tranquil life of the American buffalo grazing contentedly on the western plains… Until, with a dramatic swell in the orchestral score, a pack of wolves emerged from the tall prairie grasses. Having studied the herd, the wolves proceeded to give quick chase to one of the weaker members, easily separating it from the spooked herd and then bringing it down for the kill.
    As focused as I was on the fate of the unfortunate animal, I was more amazed that the herd seemed to accept this situation as a matter of course. Obviously disturbed by the attack, the herd had scattered enough to avoid the skirmish and left the victim to his fate. But I remarked especially how quickly the herd settled back to normal, heads down and grazing, still within a stone’s throw of the ensuing bloody meal. They seemed to know that the immediate danger was past.
    This sense of resignation I saw in buffalo herd, and the sacrifice of the one to guarantee their own survival, was a powerful experience for me. And as a metaphor, I hope NOT to see the likes of it enacted among my fellow humans.
    Yet this is the very attitude I sense among our schools in the thick of this testing frenzy: Stay out of the way while the wolves do their work. Well, they are a Focus School after all…

  7. Jennifer permalink

    Who cares about excused absences? I never really understood what the big threat was.

  8. I have loved Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience since high school, and I love your last picture. My third grader will not take this test, and almost daily she tells me how happy she is to not take the PARCC test. She is eight and has never even taken a standardized test in her life.

    I’ve been teaching for fifteen years, and we teachers have never seen such a nationwide movement against anything really, and now it seems huge against CCSS and standardized testing. I hope this is very telling of a change that’s coming.

  9. Thank you for writing this. Especially: This is indeed a time for something “civil” to level this test-indulging playing field: Civil disobedience.

  10. Katherine schoenhals, PhD permalink

    This analysis is precisely dead on and shows the abuse that is happening to school children, parents, and teachers by the likes of Pearson. When is America going to start screaming?

  11. Well written explanation of many of the reasons this all makes no sense…while simultaneously stomps on all of our collective rights.. As citizens, students, parents, tax payers, educators.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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