Thursday, March 3, 2016


PARCC is touting two new radio spots that feature a couple of Teacher of the Year winners touting the wonderfulness of the PARCC.

The National Network of Teachers of the Year produced a "research report" last year that determined that the Big Standardized Tests are super-duper and much more better than the old state tests. Was the report legit? Weelll.....

The report was reviewed by three-- well, "experts" seems like the wrong word. Three guys. Joshua Starr was a noted superintendent in Maryland, where he developed a reputation as a high stakes testing opponent. He lost that job, and moved on to become the CEO of Phi Delta Kappa. Next, Joshua Parker was a compliance specialist with Baltimore Schools, a teacher of the year, and a current member of the reform-pushing PR operation, Education Post. And the third reviewer was Mike Petrilli, head of the Fordham Institute, a group dedicated to promoting testing, charters, etc.

The study was funded by the Rockefeller Philanthropy advisors, while the NNTOY sponsors list includes by the Gates Foundation, Pearson, AIR, ETS and the College Board-- in other words, every major test manufacturer in the country that makes a hefty living on high stakes testing.

So the study's conclusion that tests like the PARCC and the SBAC are super-excellent is not exactly a shock or surprise, and neither can it be surprise that one follow-up to the study is these two radio spots.

The teachers in the spots are Steve Elza, 2015 Illinois TOYT and applied tech (automotive trades) teacher, and Josh Parker, a-- hey! Wait a minute!! Is that? Why, yes-- it appears to be one of the reviewers of the original study. Some days I start to think that some folks don't really understand what "peer review" means when it comes to research.

Anyway, the spots. What do they say? Let's listen to Elza's spot first--

A narrator (with a fairly distinct speech impediment which-- okay, fine, but it's a little distracting at first) says that Illinois students took a new PARCC test. It was the first time tests were ever aligned with what teachers taught in the classroom! Really!! The first time ever, ever! Can you believe that? No, I can't, either. And some of the best teachers in the country did a study last year to compare PARCC to state tests. And now, 2015 Teacher of the Year, Steve Elza:

Every teacher who took part in the research came to the same conclusion-- PARCC is a test worth taking. The results more accurately measure students' learning progress and tells us if kids are truly learning or if they're just repeating memorized facts. Because PARCC is aligned to our academic standards, the best preparation for it is good classroom instruction. As a teacher, I no longer have to give my students test-taking strategies-- instead I can focus on making sure students develop strong, critical, and analytical thinking skills. Our students were not as prepared for the more rigorous coursework in college or even to start working right after high school.

Sigh. First, "truly learning" and "repeating memorized facts" are not the two possible things that a test can measure, and any teacher who is not teaching test-taking strategies is not preparing her students for the test. I'm glad Elza is no longer working on test-taking strategies in auto shop, and I'm sure he's comfortable having his skills as a teacher of automotive tradecraft based in part on student math and English standardized test scores. The claim that PARCC measures readiness for the working world is just bizarre. I look forward to PARCC claims that the test measures readiness for marriage, parenthood, and running for elected office.

The narrator returns to exclaim how helpful PARCC is, loaded with "valuable feedback" that will make sure everybody is ready for "success in school and life." Yes, PARCC remains the most magical test product ever manufactured.

So how about the other spot? Let's give a listen.

Okay, same narrator, same copy with Illinois switched out for Maryland. That makes sense. And now, teacher Josh Parker:

Every teacher who took part in the research came to the same--- hey, wait a minute!! They just had these two different teachers read from the same script! Someone (could it be the PARCC marketting department?) just put words in their mouths. Parker goes one extra mile-- right after "analytical thinking skills" he throws in "PARCC also pulled back the curtain on a long-unspoken truth" before the baloney about how students were unprepared for life. Also, Parker didn't think there was a comma after "strong."

One more sad piece of marketing for the PARCC as it slowly loses piece after piece of its market. It's unfortunate that the title Teacher of the Year has been dragged into this. The award should speak more to admirable classroom qualities than simply be a way to set up teachers to be celebrity spokespersons for the very corporations that have undercut the teaching profession.


1 comment:

  1. To put a cherry on top, the report consists of a mere 23 teachers reviewing only the 5th-grade PARCC. TWENTY-THREE. And in the part of the report where the demographic breakdown of the teachers is given, there's no indication of how many of those teachers judging whether or not the tests are, perhaps, developmentally inappropriate for 5th-graders actually teach or have taught 5th grade.

    BTW, Starr's anti-testing stance was his public face for outside MCPS. When push came to shove and our family was the first (to my knowledge the ONLY) in MCPS to refuse the MSA in its last year (when scores weren't counting for anything but The Feds made MD administer it anyway), he pushed back and pushed back HARD. (Well, more accurately, he forwarded our emails appealing to him and his anti-testing stance on to other people who did the pushing back - but he certainly didn't get his hands dirty giving us any assistance despite his public stance. and )