Archive for February, 2014

Guinea Pigs Running on the Testing Wheel

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Colorado legislators are hearing from parents unhappy with the state’s new summative testing program (to be field tested in Spring 2014). The once-a-year assessment is aligned with the Common Core Standards; chosen by the consortium PARCC to which Colorado and 17 other states belong; developed and sold by Pearson, a UK conglomerate that calls itself the “world’s leading learning company.”

Parents from the south Denver metro Cherry Creek School District arrived at the Capitol in Denver last week with a list of reasons to reject PARCC, The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and its exams.  They covered the Capitol bases, talking to members of both parties.  They don’t see PARCC as a partisan issue.

What’s the parents’ beef? First, for a child starting in a Colorado kindergarten this year and continuing through high school graduation, kids lose about a year of education between 3rd grade and 11th grade because of testing and test prep (approximately 20 days/year x 9 years=180 days).  Put another way, the testing effort represents 1/9th of a kid’s seat time in school, taking up roughly every other Friday for nine years.

Second, the new PARCC assessment program hosted on the Pearson website, and all the technology that goes with it, is big-ticket.  Every school district will have to buy the tests and make sure every student has a digital tablet or computer to take the test.  Every school needs adequate high speed bandwidth to get on the internet where the tests reside. Teachers will be needed to oversee the testing. Don’t forget computer furniture, printers, and time for analysis of the data.

Money is tight because of the recession hangover, but Colorado wants to press on. Pearson loves this huge investment because the company is putting more and more of its education content online and in digital form.  The company is requiring all school districts using its tests to provide their student test results so it can “improve the exams.”

Other parental concerns include: Should the school buy Pearson’s content materials to help kids succeed in tested areas? When teaching writing well is a big challenge for schools, doesn’t the testing machine distract? Why only drive students to land in the “proficient” range of test scores?

Because that’s how the state is apparently measuring education success these days. 2014 is the year every single kid in the U.S.A. is supposed to be at least “proficient at grade level” according to NCLB which has not yet been revised, only waived for some states because the results are not even close.

According to Pearson’s strategic plan, the company, beginning in 2018, will publish “a report that will eventually track student learning outcomes across all its markets and products — from its MyMathLab software to its investments in South African higher education.” It’s a whole new kind of East India Company, led by the biggest education merchant in the world.  The sun will never set on the Pearson empire.

Meanwhile, many Colorado parents see their kids as the tiny guinea pigs running hard and steady, 20 days at a time, for nine years, inside the little cage wheel of this consortium’s allegiance to a corporate experiment.