PARCC Quashes Discussion of Assessment

Photo credit: Bartmoni (CC-By-SA 3.0)
How do we know if the assessment our kids take is bad if we can’t talk about it?
Photo credit: Bartmoni (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Some teachers wanted to make a point that PARCC was developmentally inappropriate for their students. In order to do that they had to give some examples from the assessment, but PARCC wasn’t about to let that happen.

USA Today reports:

A long-simmering dissatisfaction over standardized testing came to a head this month when an academic uploaded a handful of test items to the Internet and promptly got a note from the test’s creator, threatening legal action if she didn’t take down the items — and name her source.

The academic, Celia Oyler of Columbia University’s Teachers College, took down the items, which she said came to her anonymously. But the episode is irking educators and other observers who already believe that the powerful forces behind the tests are hijacking not just the educations of millions of children but, in this case, teachers’ rights to free speech. They note, for instance, that tweets about the episode have been taken down at the test publisher’s request.

The controversy began nearly two weeks ago, when Oyler posted a lengthy essay by an anonymous teacher who set out to show that the fourth-grade reading test designed by the non-profit Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, is “developmentally inappropriate” for the children taking it this spring in a handful of states. The blog post included details from three test items.

Five days later, after other bloggers had shared the post, Oyler got an e-mail from PARCC CEO Laura Slover, who respectfully asked her to remove the items. They were protected by copyright, she said, and were “live” test questions, still being used in schools. The postings, Slover said, “threaten the utility of the assessments, both as their administration is completed over the next few weeks and in versions of the assessment to be administered in the future.”

She said the anonymous teacher, who’d admitted in the essay that he or she had “breached a written undertaking not to reveal any of the material,” was clearly avoiding personal responsibility by remaining anonymous. Slover said PARCC would waive any damage claims if Oyler would take down the items and “turn over to us any information you may have about the teacher.”

Gotta love the transparency. While I understand that they can’t have the entire test floating out on the internet, it is impossible for parents and policy makers who are outside the loop to evaluate the assessment. It is also impossible to be able to explain why the assessment is bad if you can’t talk about it.

Who does that help? Certainly not the kids taking the test.