Teachers learning about PARCC standards

Before the first day of PARCC testing, the results are in. Push back against indefensible state policies and the state will crack.

The special time you’ve been waiting for has at last arrived, boys and girls. It’s PARCC testing week! Think Easter but with a few key differences. Like instead of hunting for eggs, you’re after "college and career readiness." Also, those Peeps in your basket aren’t for realz but are being "piloted" to help determine what should go in your basket next year. Which is to say that it’s never a good idea to put all of the kids’ eggs in one basket, even if the state’s chief educational standards bunny happens to serve as the chair of an egg distributor. 

PARCC: In an eggshell 

First some answers to your questions: like is she really going to force us to endure an extended Easter metaphor that has little if any relevance to PARCC testing? No reader, because we have more important eggs to fry. You see, starting today, 200,000 young Bay Staters are taking a new, outstandingly predictive test that is so "highly aligned" with college and career readiness that the words college and career readiness are in the name of the actual test. Today’s test drive will help the state determine whether the test is the right twenty-first-century test for the state’s twenty-first-century test takers. Which raises our first high-stakes question: what about twenty-first-century test takes who refuse to take the twenty-first-century test?

In which the state clarifies its clarification

As we learned last year, "there is no provision in Massachusetts state law for parents to ‘opt out’ of the annual statewide assessment program." Last week the state clarified its position, again, to the effect that if parents should persist in exercising this non-provision, principals should gently but firmly encourage parents to rethink their refusal, reminding them "that students’ and teachers’ experiences will help the state decide whether PARCC is a worthwhile assessment." And then the kicker: "When a parent directs their child to refuse to take PARCC, they are forgoing their child’s opportunity to contribute to ESE’s evaluation of the test." As for kids who still decline the opportunity to be test drivers?

We ask principals and test proctors to handle refusals with sensitivity. Students should not be pressured to take the test, nor should they be punished for not taking the test.

About that security provision

Shall we pause briefly to assess what we’ve learned so far? For purposes of expediency I will reveal that the correct answer is "P," as in "push back against official positions that are indefensible and those positions are likely to be clarified." Speaking of which, the state’s largest teachers union pushed back hard last week against a requirement that teachers administering the new college and career readiness gauge sign a PARCC security agreement that specifies that:

Failure to abide by the terms of the agreement may result in an investigation that leads to sanctions including employment and licensure consequences, according to your state policies.

But as MTA President Barbara Madeloni noted, the agreement is as vague as it is ominous. BMad: take it away. 

This agreement is on PARCC letterhead but otherwise it is unclear who the parties to the agreement are. The school district as a governmental entity does not appear anywhere in the document. The link to the full document takes you to the Pearson website. Is this an agreement with PARCC? With Pearson? With the district? Who will enforce it and how?

Security, whatevs

Within hours of receiving the MTA’s letter, the Commissioner of College and Career Readiness, Mitchell D. Chester, had backed down on the security agreement too. It seemed that teachers who are administering the PARCC test need not sign the security agreement in order to administer the PARCC test to all but those students who refuse to take it. Further clarification of the clarification is expected today. In the meantime, test administrators with questions should call the Pearson customer service and get a ticket number.



Read more from Public School Shakedown and Jennifer Berkshire.

Image credit: Teachers learn about the PARCC exam. Dan Callahan


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

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