A Month of Opting Out of Standardized Tests: Day 5

This is the fifth of 20 posts I will be writing during the PARCC testing window of March 9 – April 10.  If you’re interested in the growing master list of reasons we opted out of standardized tests in 2015, you can find it here.

Reason 5: Ridiculous Preparation

The preparation for all standardized testing is a little ridiculous when you think about it.  Where else in life does your ability to perform well on a test make a difference?  Sure there are qualifying exams for many professions, but once in a profession, one’s ability to perform well on a test really doesn’t mean squat.  Yet we’ve placed great emphasis on this ability in schools.

Preparation for the new PARCC test is a special kind of ridiculous.  We don’t have a great deal of data on the preparation so far (though we will be collecting this soon), but many teachers have sent us anectdotal examples of how test preparation has taken wasting time to a whole new level.  One teacher recently sent me this message:

“I have spent two weeks preparing kids for this test – practice tests, analyzing questions, breaking down the question asked, how to not lose points, etc. I feel like a hack, this is not what I got into education for.”

Plus, the PARCC is based on the computer, which means that schools
have supplemented these many hours of traditional test preparation with many additional hours of literally just showing students how to navigate the test online.  As if that wasn’t enough wasted instructional time, concerns about bandwidth issues have led schools to using students as “bandwidth testers”, pulling them out of classes in order to put them online at the same time just to see if the network will crash.  One teacher told me that it “took 3 hours just to Windows_9X_BSODtake one practice test because  students were kicked offline, videos wouldn’t play, and the network would time out.”  It would be easy to blame the schools for these decisions, but do they really have a choice?  Everything depends on this.

Remember when test preparation involved somebody winking and saying, “when in doubt, just choose “C” for the answer”?  Those were the days.