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Colorado Coalition Says PARCC Testing Is Not Teaching

Call on Governor Hickenlooper For Support.

Guest post by authors listed below.

Proponents of the controversial common-core aligned PARCC test suggest that it is a "more rigorous" standardized test and will create better students. This "rigor" proves difficult to measure as the PARCC test questions have not yet been released. Colorado mandated that all schools take the PARCC test without knowing what is on the test. PARCC is a new, unproven, unfunded, state and federally mandated test to be taken on computers, multiple times per year. Since the inception of NCLB, we have been adding to the pile of standardized tests that our students must hurdle. We over-use and over-emphasize standardized tests. PARCC adds to the pile, with lost classroom time, exorbitant cost (districts spending millions of dollars for infrastructure and computers necessary to take this PARCC test), and high-stakes pressure on both students and teachers alike. Despite this increase of standardized tests, post-secondary remediation rates continue to climb. Colorado began field-testing PARCC last week.

Visit testingtalk.org to see feedback from Colorado teachers on both PARCC and TCAPs; the reviews are not positive. New York piloted the common-core-aligned field tests earlier this year and also found multiple problems; their statistics show that Common Core aligned tests actually widen the achievement gap. Standardized tests fail to accurately measure knowledge; results can be predicted based on income and race. The tests are snapshots, don't take into account other factors: ability to navigate computer, having an "off" day, tired / sick, issues outside the classroom, etc. High school GPAs are a more reliable predictor of college readiness. Evaluating teachers based on standardized tests is highly questionable as per ASA findings.

Coloradoans are fed-up with standardized testing. The Colorado Education Association has called for reductions of testing time, and will support coalitions in withdrawing from PARCC. CEA supports a moratorium on high-stakes testing. Parents are also taking a stand and opting-out of testing. They know PARCC tests are predicted to take longer and can be given up to four times per year, rather than TCAPs once per year. In a landmark vote, the Colorado Board of Education (BOE) this week voted against PARCC testing in our state, and have asked the state legislature to repeal the law requiring PARCC assessments. The BOE also agrees that testing is excessive and has commissioned a study on the amount and types of assessments used in Colorado classrooms. A bill currently in the General Assembly, HB14-1202, which intended to allow schools options to PARCC, was weakened due to political pressure and has morphed into another study on Colorado's assessments. A similar bill to delay PARCC and Common Core, SB14-136, was killed earlier this season by the same political parties.

PARCC tests also facilitate the collection of student data, of all sorts, not just academic, including psycho-social. This video from the White House Datapalooza shows how companies like Pearson (which developing the PARCC test) collect "hidden" data on children, "by tagging every sentence, down to the atom.' The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) captures this data and more from other tests and observations including home life, mental health, behavioral, pictures and videos taken throughout the school year, and packages the data onto a single "Golden Record" of personal, identifying information that will follow and track the student from birth, preschool, through college and career. Watch the CDE video here. This data collection happens without parent approval. Parental consent is not necessary; in fact, parents cannot prohibit their child's data being collected or shared, often through third-party vendors. This government document explains how FERPA/HIPPA laws were changed and now bypassed, allowing data collection. A Fordham Institute study finds "there are serious deficiencies" in student data security; the data is not safe and can be breached. Lawsuits, such as EPIC's, challenge this data collection and the weakened FERPA regulations. Student profiling often happens in other countries, Singapore for instance:

Singapore's government instituted the practice of streaming (or tracking) students based on their academic ability from elementary school onward. After six years of primary-school education, Singaporean students take a test that determines whether they'll be placed in a special school for the gifted, a vocational school or a special education program, and another test later determines their higher-ed options.

Singapore tracking sounds eerily like what CDE and the White House have described as their goals for American children. Obtaining this type of personal and predictive, behavioral data without parental consent is clearly questionable. In fact, Nevada Department of Education allowed parents to opt out of their common core aligned field tests due to concerns over data collection and privacy. 

How do we stop this violation of student and teacher privacy?  Vote YES on a bill currently in Colorado legislature.  SB14-204 requires parental consent to collect student data and also consent to share that data. It would prohibit the sale of ALL data. 

What is the answer to all the testing madness? STOP. Why rush into PARCC? Are there special interests and politics at play? If we feel we need rigorous standardized tests, why not rigorously review them before implementing? Even Fordham's Chester Finn believes PARCC will wither away and be replaced by something else. In fact, 17 states have backed out of the common-core assessment consortia. Colorado could make its own state assessment based on what our teachers actually teach. An even better option would be to use the NAEP test, which Colorado already uses! NAEP is an established, nationally recognized test that measures student achievement; there is no need to spend billions on developing new PARCC or SBAC tests.  Whatever the test, take it much less frequently. High-performing countries like Finland take only one standardized test in high school. Why not find a balance and test only a portion of students, staggering the tests at different grades?  Rather than test every child, every year, we could follow the well respected NAEP protocol of random sampling.  Too much classroom time is lost preparing for and taking so many of these high-stakes standardized tests. Testing is not teaching; let teachers teach. 

Allow teacher and parent input, and keep our decisions local. Colorado is a local-control state. Give control back to our school boards and teachers where it belongs. Our state legislators hold this power. We, the taxpayers and voters, hope they will support CDE and the people of Colorado. Repeal or at least delay PARCC, review standards, require parental consent on children's data. We also call upon Governor Hickenlooper to sign legislation if sent to him. In a recent interview with Mike Rosen, the Governor, at 27 minutes, agreed that testing is excessive and said he would be willing to help delay PARCC, involving parents in the process. Hickenlooper went on to say, "We can opt out of all kinds of things in Common Core." Thank you Governor. We sincerely hope that the General Assembly will send you such a bill and that you will follow through.

*Author's note: This op-ed was written in response to an article published in Chalkbeat by  Elaine Gantz Berman, on April 9, 2014, the same day that the Colo Board of Ed voted against PARCC. Because Chalkbeat has been unable to publish our response, we are grateful to Anthony Cody for graciously allowing us to post it here.

Signed, 

Cheri Kiesecker,  Fort Collins, Colorado  

Kristin Tallis, Fort Collins, Colorado  

Aimie Randall, Loveland, Colorado  

Matt Wiebe, Fort Collins, Colorado

Deanna Masciantonio-Miller, Kiowa, Colorado

Belinda Seville, Centennial, Colorado

Ryan Smith, Kiowa, Colorado

Courtney Smith, Kiowa, Colorado

Candy Putch, Elizabeth, Colorado

Cameron Rau,  Loveland, Colorado

Elodji Means, Elizabeth , Colorado 

Kimerly Lutte, Elizabeth , Colorado 

William Lutter, Elizabeth , Colorado 

Dr. Dave Barton, Castle Rock, Colorado

Denys Vigil, Denver, Colorado

Kathy Welch,Colorado Springs, Colorado

Connie Miller, Kiowa, Colorado

Matt Kaiser, Elizabeth , Colorado 

Kelly Kaiser, Elizabeth , Colorado 

John Seville -Elizabeth , Colorado

Kathryn Seville - Loveland, Colorado

Natalie Adams, Littleton, Colorado

John Sampson, Strasburg School Board, Colorado

Julie Williams, Jefferson County School Board, Colorado

Rudy Zitti, Fort Collins, Colorado 

Elizabeth McManus, Elbert , Colorado

Judith Casey, retired Elementary Principal, 54 yers public Education, Colorado Springs

Heidi Wolfgang, Canon City, Colorado

Jennifer Raiffie, Denver, Colorado

Toni Walker, Loveland, Colorado

Katrina Kochim, Grand Junction, Colorado

Maureen Sielaff, Littleton, Colorado

Cathy Gardino, Falcon, Colorado

Sheila Brown, Arvada, Colorado

Barb Hulet, Olathe, Colorado

Anita Stapleton, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Mike Stapleton, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Angelique Matthews, Colorado Springs

Jack Matthews, Colorado Springs

Stephanie Engel, Milliken, Colorado

Conny Jensen, Greeley, Colorado

Steve Yon, Castle Rock, Colorado

Kari Newsom, Littleton, Colorado

Adelia Darlene Herrera, Larkspur,  Colorado

Eric Lee Herrera , Larkspur,  Colorado

Justin Collier Herrera,  Larkspur,  Colorado 

Crystal Coleman, Castle Rock, Colorado

Maren Kay Neises, Larkspur,  Colorado 

Mary Denise Babcock, Littleton CO

Karla Mount, Castle Rock, Colorado

Nina Seifert Bishop, Denver, Colorado

Deborah Scheffel, Colorado Board of Education

Senator Vicki Marble, District 23, Colorado

Representative Chris Holbert, District 44, Colorado

Representative Justin Everett, District 22, Colorado

Representative Dan Nordberg, District 14, Colorado

Core Concerns, Northern Colorado

Stop Common Core Colorado 

Coloradoans Against Common Core

Parents' Voice for JeffCo 

Northern Colo. Parents Against Common Core

Fremont County RE-1 

SchoolReform.CO 

Stop Common Core Colorado 

Parent Led Reform National 

Parent Led Reform Colorado

United Opt Out National 

Uniting4Kids

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