PARCC and Standardized Tests in Massachusetts

Dear Gov. Baker,

I’m writing to you because I went to one of the forums regarding PARCC testing last night and was unable to testify. At all of the hearings that have been held, the same group of pro-PARCC employees of Teach Plus have arrived early (being paid a stipend to do so) and taken up the first 45 – 60 minutes of the three hours so that community members are not able to speak.

I work until 5:00 (with children, so I know not only that of which I speak, but also provide a community service giving quality child care so parents can work) and the earliest I could arrive was 5:40. We were told that the people “who arrived very late” would not be able to speak because of the long list ahead of us. This was adding insult to injury.

Because I didn’t get to speak my testimony in front of the panel, I am including it below. But right now I just need to speak from the heart. My sons’ educational experience is being ruined because of standardized testing. In Massachusetts, we make students go to school for thirteen years and then tell them they can’t have their diploma because they can’t pass one test. In his testimony a few weeks ago, Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford had this to say:

The fact is the kids who aren’t passing the bubble test are being left behind and we’re gonna have to support them…we are setting up a caste system…we cannot tell people we will not give you your diploma even though you have earned it…but we will send you a check each month because you’re not gonna get into society…there aren’t enough people to subsidize the people we’re keeping out.

I have been through the process of listening forums before: on child care regulations, the library system takeover, and Holyoke receivership. Sadly we – the boots on the ground – all go and passionately speak our feelings about what’s happening, and the board that we are facing usually goes ahead and does exactly what it planned on anyway. I’m afraid that will happen again in this instance and it’s enough to make me lose faith in public education.

The upshot of this battle, in which I’ve done a lot of research and really thought about the issues at hand, is that I will be refusing all testing – including MCAS – for my sons from here on in. When they get to 10th grade, if it is still required for their diploma, I will have them take the MCAS so they can have the piece of paper that every student has worked their whole life for, and without which their prospects are ridiculously low.

I have been told that my sons should take the tests because its good for their school – that they will score high and the school needs the money. It is not my childrens’ job to make money for their school. This is tantamount to child labor. It is the school system whose job it is to give my children the education they deserve. Please put a moratorium on testing and let our students and teachers show you what they can really do in a healthy learning environment.

Amy Pybus
enc.

Testimony for PARCC Hearing

My name is Amy Pybus and I’ve worked with children for fifteen years. I’m here because basing students, schools and teachers performance on standardized test results is wrong. I’d like to tell you about some studies that have been done on standardized tests.

In the first study, a group of students were tested on vocabulary, reading, language, and mathematics. It showed that the girls consistently outscored boys in language, but the boys score was significantly higher than the girls in math. Is anyone surprised by that?

The year was 1977. We knew then that standardized tests were not a fair measurement of boys vs. girls – let alone special ed and second language learners.

In 1983, we heard this result: “Standardized tests are not sufficient to measure the full area of school effectiveness because they rate students on a narrow range of capabilities, only one set of educational goals, and a uniform set of teaching methods.”

Another study involved high school students in a small, working-class town who were drilled and tested over 4 years. The results indicated that a third of the class – which ended up dropping out of school – would have benefited from a vocational curriculum. Their career choices were influenced by socioeconomic status, rural location, and job preference – not by test scores.

That was in 1986.

Here’s another. “Employing standardized tests to ascertain educational quality is like measuring temperature with a tablespoon. Standardized tests have a different mission than indicating how good or bad a school is. They should not be used to judge educational quality.” The year was 1999.

And one final study. “Standardized tests are not objective or unbiased. The misuse of standardized testing and social expectations can affect minority groups. Using test data as an all-purpose solution does more harm than good. Education reform policy should rely predominately on input from teachers.”

That study was done last year.

For forty years we have heard over and over again from actual scientists that standardized tests don’t work. Yet here we are today, basing our entire educational paradigm on standardized testing, and spending $100 million per year in the process.

But then I realized – we don’t listen to scientists and researchers. We listen to businessmen. We listen to Bill Gates and his Teach Plus foundation, who are trying to make all students into computer engineers. It makes me wonder, what does Bill Gates know about education? Has he taught in a classroom or worked with children? Of course not. But we are allowing him and other powerful businessmen to dictate the education our children will receive. Any person who argues passionately in favor of standardized tests is not a teacher.

I know another billionaire computer guy – Steve Jobs. He said, “A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

That is what education is supposed to look like: a broad understanding of the human experience. We need to stop wasting so much time, money, and effort to try to make every child proficient in skills that they will not use again after school. When you universally have parents, teachers, students, and administrators telling you this system doesn’t work, you need to listen.

PS If you want to see another billionaire education guy check out this one: Edutopia. Use the force, George.

Advertisements