PARCC Testing – Is Our Ranting Hurting Kids Even More?

The PARCC Testing Debate

Regardless of whether you are a parent or a teacher, unless you’ve been under a rock in recent months, you’ve heard of the new PARCC testing. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been blowing up with angry parents posting bitter rants about why this test is so evil and why their children should be allowed to opt out of it. The Washington Post published an article last week that nicely summarizes the drama: As Common Core Testing Is Ushered In, Parents and Students Opt Out.

Let me first say that I am a former attorney and current middle school teacher, so I am familiar with both the legal and educational aspects of the testing. I have been trained in PARCC testing administration and am very familiar with the test. Moreover, I am the mother of a 7th grader and a 4th grader, both of whom will be taking the PARCC test next week. Point is, I am seeing the situation both as an educator and as a parent.

I will also say that I do NOT believe that children should be solely judged on standardized testing. I think this cartoon sums it up perfectly:

I do not believe that standardized tests are a true indicator of how well a child will perform; in fact, I am a perfect example – I did incredibly well on the LSAT without even taking a prep class, yet was a VERY average law school student. I am a firm believer that universities should look at each prospective student’s entire background, not just the numbers posted on the SAT or ACT sites.

However, tests are important for teachers, administrators, and parents to see how well students are progressing and what things need to be changed in order to improve student learning. Ideally, these tests will help our teachers to teach better so our students can learn better.

As I weed through all of the posts tearing apart PARCC testing, I cannot help but think that all of the grumbling and complaining is actually counterproductive. I assume that most of these tirades are made with the best interests of the child in mind; however, is whining and complaining about a legally mandated test teaching our children about the ways of the real world? In my eyes, this is setting kids up for failure in the future. If I tell my kids “I think it’s a bad test so I’m telling your school you are opting out” then they will think this is the standard for things in the future. Go to college, take a class, dislike that the final exam “isn’t fair” so tell the professor you’re “opting out”? Graduate college, decide you want to go to law school, look at the LSAT prep book and think “hey, this isn’t a good or fair test so I’m just going to opt out”? Get a job, discover that in order to keep said job continuing education is required, but think hey, no problem, I can just opt out of it?

Let’s be real for a second. Right or wrong, your kid will have to take that final to pass the class, sit for the LSAT to get into law school, and complete the continuing education to maintain his or her job. I’m not saying I like it, but it’s fact. In the real world, we can’t simply opt out of required things because they aren’t to our liking (and may likely be actually flawed). Does PARCC have issues? Absolutely. Is it a perfect test? Nope, not even close. But it simply cannot get better for future students if it isn’t tested out in actual classrooms with actual students. All of the feedback, criticism, and data will help PARCC improve, which will hopefully better our educational system as a whole.

Our children and students feed off of our energy. If we are excited about something, so are they; if we are angry and bitter about something, they usually are too. So if we are all complaining about PARCC (and don’t kid yourself, whether your child is 4 or 14, they see and hear everything) your child will then HATE PARCC too. If Mommy says it is awful and terrible then it absolutely must be. Isn’t this how racism works? Now clearly, teaching kids to hate PARCC testing is nowhere near the level of racism, but you have to admit that it’s the same concept: parent preaches to child, child believes parent must be right, child preaches to other children, and the cycle begins.

Whether or not you agree with PARCC, it is important that you explain to your child(ren) or students that the testing is important to make them better students and citizens and to help their schools provide them with the best education. Encourage them to just do their best and ensure them that the scores DO NOT COUNT. This is really important as many kids are afraid of failing; if there is nothing to fail, there is nothing to fear. Insisting that your child(ren) opt out does absolutely no good, and provides them with the belief that throughout life if they don’t like something they can just decide not to do it, even if it is important and/or required for their role or position at the time.

My principal sent this to all staff last week, and I believe it is a fitting ending this post. Let’s all just “let it go” and set a good example for our kids.

Good luck to all with PARCC testing this Spring.