Wednesday, April 22, 2015

'Tis the Season

It seems that the testing season is here again. But if you ask any teacher within the public school system, they would say it never left. With the full implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and advent of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)  or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), standardized testing across the states, classrooms, schools, administrators, teachers, parents, and most importantly, students, are hard pressed on every side. 
Just one example of many school billboards, alerting community members, families, and students that with April showers, brings testing anxiety.
Around the country, schools are gearing up for a second wave of PARCC. Testing schedules have been confirmed, and materials have been distributed to schools. In January, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) attempted to protest the administration of this assessment, but to no avail
And here we are again, in April. What perplexes most CPS teachers, is that the administration of PARCC  runs concurrently with the testing window for NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association), which is considered a high-stake test, that determines student promotion eligibility.  I could detail the acronyms, and purported purpose for these tests, but what is not shared enough is the effects this institutionalized norm gone mad, has on children. 

The above billboard was displayed right after spring break. As students and teachers returned from a well-deserved break, teachers will be inundated with test protocol, which contributes to an overwhelmingly tense and stressful environment. Furthermore, crucial instructional time is compromised during testing. While the point of this is to inform instruction, hold teachers and schools accountable for failing progress, and teacher/school evaluative measures, rarely is the purpose of these tests expressed and truly understood by our students. I find myself having to "beef up" the importance of these assessments to my students: "this test is going to open the doors of success and help you achieve your dreams", or "this tells your teachers what you know and what we need to do to help you best". No doubt do these assessments show our students where they stand in comparison to their peers in more affluent school districts around the state and nation. However, to most, it is just another update on whether they left the "red/orange" (severely below grade level) and made it to "green", on grade level, or if they slipped to "green", from being "blue" college ready.

It is my firm belief that school is the first place in which a child should feel successful. While I have seen merit in these tests, too often does it impart confidence and authentic motivation to the students. In my experiences, for far too many students, it has reaffirmed their inability to be successful in the classroom. 

Today we were given,addressing the rumors that we would, in fact, be administering PARCC next week. I was overcome with angst and grief as I envisioned being stripped of prime instructional time, to prepare for another weighted test just 21 instructional days away. As teachers hop from one track to the next, how can one feel successful or even motivated, and expect their students to do the same?  

My point of view is nothing unique: there are many teachers who have similar sentiments. I think we are finally nearing a time in which these voices will be heard, and cannot be ignored or placated.  

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