With about a month until the first PARCC test begins, it's as though we're sitting in a line of traffic, approaching a car crash. We, meaning students, teachers, administration, and parents, are all slowly (and anxiously) awaiting what will be a disastrous week.
Over the last few weeks, it's been a major topic of discussion at school and at home. I've come away with a few general realizations:
1. Is the value of teaching declining? My co-workers and I were discussing how we feel as though we need to prepare our students the best we can for the PARCC test (obviously). This means showing them a little bit of everything in hopes that nothing will be out of the ordinary to them. But, since we feel as though we want them to see a bit of everything, that means less time doing engaging projects or activities (aka valuable teaching). Instead, we "go go go" so they will "know know know." But, that brings up the question: if they only saw a bit of it, how will they be able to work through the challenging nature of PARCC questions? There's just not enough time to prepare them.
2. Even the smartest students are overwhelmed. Yesterday, another teacher told me how her class was doing PARCC practice. The top student in the grade sat at his seat with tears in his eyes. TEARS. And this was a PRACTICE test. If the most advanced students in our classes feel this overwhelmed, imagine the stress of other students, of students who don't fully speak English, of students who have anxiety, of students whose parents put pressure on them. It's too much to ask from a child.
3. "Can't we just learn normal math instead of doing all of this PARCC stuff?" As my students worked on their "do-now" yesterday, this came from one girl's mouth. She was frustrated. It's no secret that PARCC has been on teacher's minds because it's supposed to be a reflection of our teaching effectiveness. So of course we are going to expose our students to these questions. But, this girl said it best. Is it making us teach for the test instead of teach for the students?
In the past, testing has caused anxiety, but never like this. Now, entire districts are 'opting out' of the test. There has been an uproar over the expectations of this test. How does this prove how effective a teacher is? Why do we need to take so much time to prepare for an uphill battle?
Have you ever seen a PARCC sample question? Click the link and have fun. Now, imagine an 11-year-old working on the same questions.
Thinking of all the teachers and students over the next couple of weeks. Just know we are all in the same boat and we will all get through it!