Sunday, April 13, 2014

PARCC or not to PARCC - That Is The Question?


Since the Common Core has been taken to task in Oklahoma by HB3399 and a number of stellar lawmakers who apparently have the best interests of Oklahoma children at heart, there have been a number of concerns about testing.

Here's a bit of background on the state of Common Core testing from Ed.gov:
ABOUT THE RACE TO THE TOP ASSESSMENT PROGRAM
The Race to the Top Assessment program was authorized as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). In September 2010, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) awarded competitive, four-year grants to two consortia of states, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced).
Though Common Core naysayers have been given names the likes of 'misinformed' when it comes to the idea that Common Core is a federal program, it is impossible to argue with these facts:

  1. What is tested is taught, thereby creating a situation in which testing drives curricula - especially since Common Core tests are high stakes tests tied, not only to our state's A-F grading system for public schools but teacher 'grading' as well
  2. The Common Core tests are federally subsidized via ARRA funds given to PARCC and Smarter Balance
  3. The federal government is now reviewing the tests they paid to develop, further entrenching the federal government in the Common Core process
Now, as the state attempts to abandon Common Core, we have explained to lawmakers that Oklahoma should move up to PASS rather than stay with Common Core (Oklahoma Academic Standards) in the interim period while new standards are being written.  We have encountered resistance with this idea however, as Oklahoma's contract with Measured Progress is brought up over and over again as though contracts with state agencies are iron clad and contain no exclusion clause. 

Our main concerns with MP tests follow:
  1. Superintendent Barresi made an enormous issue out of removing Oklahoma from PARCC testing (as did many other states) - most probably because the argument provided earlier about the federal government intervention into Common Core, but also because of costs.  PARCC costs were listed as one reason why Dr. Barresi dropped out of the testing consortium.  Evidently, the costs are ever-increasing as PARCC had to reorganize as a C3 (non-profit) organization in order to receive private funding to cover the costs (with help from the National Governor's Association).
  2. MP was granted subcontractor status to PARCC through PARCC's contract with Education Testing Services (ETS).  Consequently, any test written or provided by MP would be a PARCC test.
Why get out of PARCC if we're just going to go right back via a different name (like Common Core vs Oklahoma Academic Standards)?  Why disregard Mary Fallin's Executive Order on testing (#2) that states:
The state of Oklahoma will be exclusively responsible for deciding the assessment methodology to be used to measure student performance.
Clearly, if Oklahoma is using MP, we will be unable meet this requirement, as this company is a subcontractor to PARCC and ETS.

Finally, the Common Core state standards are being fully digitized and each standard placed into a database.  This database will then be utilized by the testing companies contracted/subcontracted to PARCC to determine the exact standard/s the student missed during testing because the testing database will align with the standards database.  Truly, this could result in a situation in which career counseling would remove a career opportunity for a student simply because they missed career-similar test questions on the Common Core-aligned testing.  This situation would not only have to violate Governor Fallin's Executive Order on student privacy (#5), but would create a European system of public education expressly frowned on by those who founded our country on the idea that any American could be anything.

We must not only stop Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma, but Common Core testing through Measured Progress as well!