Today David Hespe, the acting education commissioner in New Jersey, sent out a letter to Chief School Administrators, Charter School Lead Persons, School Principals, and Test Coordinators.
The re: is "Student Participation in the Statewide Assessment Program." Specifically, it's "why there ought to be some, and how you handle uppity folks who want to avoid it."
In the two page letter, the first page and a half are taken up with a history lesson and a legal brief. Basically, "some laws have been passed, starting with No Child Left Behind, and we think they mean that students have to take the PARCC." (If you want to see the faux legal argument dismantled, check out Sarah Blaine's piece here.)
But then Hespe, correctly suspecting that this might not be sufficient for dealing with recalcitrant parental units, offers this magical paragraph:
In speaking with parents and students, it is perhaps most important to outline the positive reasons that individual students should participate in the PARCC examinations. Throughout a student’s educational career, the PARCC assessments will provide parents with important information about their child’s progress toward meeting the goal of being college or career ready. The PARCC assessments will, for the first time, provide detailed diagnostic information about each individual student’s performance that educators, parents and students can utilize to enhance foundational knowledge and student achievement. PARCC assessments will include item analysis which will clarify a student’s level of knowledge and understanding of a particular subject or area of a subject. The data derived from the assessment will be utilized by teachers and administrators to pinpoint areas of difficulty and customize instruction accordingly. Such data can be accessed and utilized as a student progresses to successive school levels.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (forgot that's what PARCC stands for, didn't you) is a magical magical test. It can tell with absolute precision, how prepared your student is for college or career because, magic. And who wouldn't want to know more about the powerful juju contained in the PARCC test.
So if Mr. Hespe and any of his friends come to explain how crucial PARCC testing is for your child's future, you might try asking some questions.
* Exactly what is the correspondence between PARCC results and college readiness. Given the precise data, can you tell me what score my eight year old needs to get on the test to be guaranteed at least a 3.75 GPA at college?
* Does it matter which college he attends, or will test results guarantee he is ready for all colleges?
* Can you show me the research and data that led you to conclude that Test Result A = College Result X? How exactly do you know that meeting the state's politically chosen cut score means that my child is prepared to be a college success?
* Since the PARCC tests math and language, will it still tell me if my child is ready to be a history or music major? How about geology or women's studies?
* My daughter plans to be a stay-at-home mom. Can she skip the test? Since that's her chosen career, is there a portion of the PARCC that tests her lady parts and their ability to make babies?
* Which section of the PARCC tests a student's readiness to start a career as a welder? Is it the same part that tests readiness to become a ski instructor, pro football player, or dental assistant?
* I see that the PARCC will be used to "customize instruction." Does that mean you're giving the test tomorrow (because it'a almost November already)? How soon will the teacher get the detailed customizing information-- one week? Ten days? How will the PARCC results help my child's choir director and phys ed teacher customize instruction?
* Is it possible that the PARCC will soon be able to tell me if my eight year old is on track for a happy marriage and nice hair?
* Why do you suppose you keep using the word "utilize" when "using" is a perfectly good plain English substitute?
* To quote the immortal Will Smith in Independence Day, "You really think you can do all that bullshit you just said?"
The PARCC may look like just one more poorly-constructed standardized math and language test, but it is apparently super-duper magical, with the ability to measure every aspect of a child's education and tell whether the child is ready for college and career, regardless of which college, which major, which career, and which child we are talking about. By looking at your eight year old's standardized math and language test, we can tell whether she's on track to be a philosophy major at Harvard or an airline pilot! It's absolutely magical!
Never has a single standardized test claimed so much magical power with so little actual data to back up its assertions. Mr. Hespe would be further ahead to skip his fancy final paragraph and just tell his people to look parents in the eye and say, "Because the state says so." It's not any more educationally convincing than the magical CACR bullshit, but at least it would be honest.