A colleague came to me today, outraged over our refusal to subject our freshman daughter to PARCC testing. She seemed to believe that I am willing to “hurt teachers” over my objection to the toxic testing rage that’s sweeping the state and our country.
She is so, so wrong. While I have my daughter’s best interests at the heart of my decision-making, the last thing I want to do is harm the very teachers who are teaching and nurturing my children, and my kids have some amazing teachers in their lives.
What I want to do is help break the cycle of testing abuse. My hands are tied right now as a teacher, but not as a parent.
Personally, I don’t see how any teacher would allow their child to be subjected to PARCC testing. We know how much learning time is being wasted on something that is utterly useless to teachers. We know that ranking and sorting children is bad. We know so many lies about standardized testing that I could go on for days about it. We’ve discussed these very things at meetings.
So it isn’t that my colleague believes the propaganda about how wonderful PARCC is or how much it will improve education.
Nope. It’s all about VAM.
Not testing means potentially negative Value Added Measures get factored into my child’s teachers’ evaluations. My colleague has fallen prey to the scare tactic that this VAM drop will lead to poor evaluations for my child’s teachers, could cause those teachers to be put on professional improvement plans, and may even result in those teachers losing their jobs.
So in essence, my colleague believes that I could cost a teacher their job by refusing a worthless test that is designed to fail 60% of the students who take it and will label schools and teachers as failures.
Either way, the result is the same: VAM scores everywhere are going to fall like mercury in a Polar Vortex, and baby, it’s gonna get cold in our classrooms.
I honestly cannot understand how any teacher could support this game of Extreme Test and Punish and still be able to sleep at night. To encourage harmful test-taking because of VAM gives professional credence to VAM. If you know that VAM is a faulty measure of teacher performance and you insist on playing the VAM card anyway, you are feeding the monster that wants nothing more than to eat your teaching license and discard your continuing contract in the trash.
It was suggested that I voice my objections through reasonable methods like contacting lawmakers to let them know what I think. Seriously? It really doesn’t matter how many letters I write or phone calls I make. The state doesn’t want my opinion, and neither do the feds. If they wanted to know what teachers really thought about PARCC assessments or Common Core, they’d have asked, and my phone hasn’t rung even once, even though I always include contact information in my letters.
What I do know is that money talks, and I don’t have enough capital to buy myself a lobbyist.
So instead I join with thousands of other parents to voice our objections to these tests with our refusal to participate in the charade. We refuse to allow our daughter to test, thereby withholding the data that the state, the feds, and Pearson so badly wants. We, along with thousands of other parents, must gum up the industrial-education machine that our politicians and businessmen are creating as their way to privatize our public education dollars.
But because I was worried about how my daughter’s teachers would react to our refusal to test, I contacted them so I could explain my thinking first-hand and get their feedback. I spoke directly with the teachers who may see VAM dips.
They completely support our decision to refuse the tests.
Like me, they are willing to take one for the team, because they know that this system is harmful to students and they believe that it needs to change. We agree that it will take action, not words, to force this change to materialize.
They also know that their students are more than a number.
And teachers are more than VAM.