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The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a consortium of 18 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands working together to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math anchored in what it takes to be ready for college and careers. The PARCC assessments will be ready for states to administer during the 2014-15 school year.

In spring 2014, the PARCC Field Test will be administered to over one million students across PARCC states.  Parts of this assessment will be piloted at various buildings within Township District 214.

State leaders in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers share one fundamental goal: building their collective capacity to dramatically increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workplace.

PARCC’s next-generation assessment system will provide students, educators, policymakers and the public with the tools needed to identify whether students — from grade 3 through high school — are on track for postsecondary success and, critically, where gaps may exist and how they can be addressed well before students enter college or the workforce.

For more information on PARCC assessment and to try out sample test questions in their intended environment online, please visit: http://www.parcconline.org

MJ Byrnes, a member of the Wilmington School Committee, states she is wary of funding and the lack of transparency. She states, “Right now, there is no guarantee that federal funding will be available, and this could hurt districts.” She also pointed out, “Technology is a related concern. Districts will be required to spend $75,000 to $100,000—or more—to provide the appropriate upgrades. There are a lot of hidden costs to this program.”

Concern was raised for students who have trouble taking tests (Special Education students, English Language Learners, students from low income households, and etc.). Commissioner Mitchell Chester said that the students, rather than receive a diploma, would instead be granted a certificate of completion, which he argued would help them be competitive in the job market.

Byrnes, later in the meeting, said that the Common Core reforms “will potentially shoot public education in the foot.”

Other concerns have been raised regarding the length of this assessment and the effect it may have on students.

Board members of Lusher, a Charter school in New Orleans, attempted taking the PARCC practice test with the following results:

“To give board members and educators a taste of what’s involved in the test, the school’s director of operations, Frank Israel, set up more than a dozen laptops. Students will have 90 minutes to complete 18 questions, watch a short video and write an essay. Board members and others at the Saturday meeting answered only six test questions before deciding that the PARCC test has problems.”

“Taking this test on some of the older equipment we have now would be maddening,” Israel said.

Most in attendance agreed that being able to navigate the test is as important as knowing the actual answers. Board member Andrea Armstrong said the current design went against best practices in testing. “I thought the material was really interesting,” Armstrong said. “What I don’t like is how badly the questions are drafted.”

One member “stressed the need to teach students keyboard skills in the meantime and to provide them with the best laptops for test taking.”

DeKalb County schools also plan to take part in the PARCC assessment field test.

“School districts won’t be told their results after the field test as it is designed to measure the questions, not the students. Local school officials believe the test also will be a measure of how equipped they are for the new exam.”

“DeKalb School District 428 could spend $1.1 million to upgrade its computers and its network in order to be able to administer the test. The money will come from the $21 million construction grant the district received.”

“The changes, Marquardt said, means school districts don’t have the data to measure students’ annual growth. The jump to PARCC adds another year of data officials can’t compare.

“It’s like apples and oranges,” Marquardt said. “The only real comparison we have is looking at other districts in the state.”

A CPS teacher asked, “Colleges aren’t going to use the PARCC for admissions, so why should students take it?” This teacher urged educators, “The money and time sunk into the PARCC should be considered a sunk cost, lost forever. Help students succeed in college. Be brave and speak up for eliminating PARCC and keeping the ACT.

Another grievous point of view is the possible agenda behind the Common Core movement and PARCC testing: It is just another facet of the attack on public education as a whole, with the ultimate goal of privatized education.

In the Director’s Report of Jan-Feb 2014 On the Move, “Bruce Rauner’s Big Lie,” author Henry Bayer states, “a company owned by Rauner paid a member of the Teachers’ Retirement System Board more than $25,000 a month. Not coincidentally, his firm was selected to handle TRS pension dollars. The TRS member, Stuart Levine, is now doing time in federal prison for public malfeasance.” The article goes on to state, “Rauner’s real target isn’t a handful of union leaders, but the hundreds of thousands of union members whose pay, pensions and workplace rights he wants to diminish.”

Stop Common Core Illinois is a non-partisan community of Illinois citizens united by their concerns about Common Core in Illinois. Their core mission is to:

• Foster communication and collaboration among activists striving to Stop Common Core in Illinois
• Educate the general public about their concerns regarding Common Core
• Collate the latest news and information in one convenient place
• Work with the media to shine a spotlight on Common Core and related issues
• Share their experiences in Illinois with other state and national organizations

Lastly, one blogpost I read goes as far as to assert, ““The end result of the full application of the Common Core will be fully socialized communistic education, entirely controlled by the government. I am speaking from the reality of post-communist Bulgaria (Eastern Europe). The state (government) Ministry of Education is the sole standard and source of ANY thought on the philosophy of education (or lack thereof). Private education is subject to the government’s a) permission and b) curriculum.

I once heard it said that a smart person learns from his own mistakes, but a wise person learns from the experience of others.  Maybe we should ask ourselves how potentially bad could this really be?

The following video is about Hilmar Von Campe, a former Nazi youth who asked God for forgiveness. He dedicated the remainder of his life sounding a trumpet, alerting the American public to wake up. The Germans did not suspect, or could not possibly comprehend, the political movement that was upon them.

I recently learned the steps taken by the Italian Fascist Party to gain power were as follows:
1.  Partner with Corporations
2.  Destroy Unions
3.  Control Public Education (Balilla Fascist Youth Group, Hitler Youth Movement)

Is there a pattern here from which the American public might benefit by taking note?

In the following video, did I hear right?  Does President Barack Obama state a third term in office would be a good idea?  He’s right, this wouldn’t turn out well – there are reasons why this, historically, has not happened in the United States of America since FDR.

Yet, it clearly looks as though Obama is making preparations to do just that, “A United States congressman has introduced a bill that would repeal the 22nd Amendment, which currently limits the president to serving only two terms as commander-in-chief.  Should the bill become a law, it could allow President Barack Obama to run for reelection yet again in 2016.”

No one man, or woman, should have that much power if the goal in this country is to maintain a republic as intended. “Congress passed the 22nd Amendment on March 21, 1947.  It was ratified by 41 states and rejected by only two. It limits each president to two terms, but did not apply to the sitting president, former President Harry Truman, who withdrew as a candidate for re-election in 1952.”

Education Chair’s Thoughts:
There is obviously money to be had in the public sector, and those in the private sector chomping at the bit to have a piece of the pie. Perhaps what educators, and the public, should ask themselves is, ‘What would the world of privatized education look like?’

Each school would operate as its own competitive island, with the the most elite schools charging the highest tuition that only the wealthiest socio-economic class could afford. What would the future of education for America’s lower and middle classes look like? Competition to be the best will break down communication between educators and growth in educational practices, excelerating a deterioration and ultimate breakdown in education for those who can’t afford the best.

At it’s worst, a national network of democracy will collapse, leaving an open field for private domination and elite superiority.  Maybe it’s time to go back to the faith of our founding fathers, the faith America was built upon.  It’s infinitely more comforting to know God has his points in place and waits to hear the blast that gives His people an edge.

One might ask, what are educators doing with their accumulation of test data? Data is currently being used across America as a funnel in which we filter students into select colleges, with the promise of a successful future. Yet, education is not a world in which one-size-fits-all. Students who can’t compete academically are paying for a college education they can’t afford. They find themselves in a workforce where they can’t compete with the burden of financial debt that they, somehow, will need to pay back.

In the meantime, there is an alarming labor shortage in the trades. Once the baby boomer generation retires, who will be prepared to fill the local need for electricians, plumbers, carpenters, auto mechanics, and etc.? Those left in the skilled trades who are competent in their field will be able to charge high wages for their service since so few laborers in any given trade will be educated and certified in their field. Why not target this future employment deficit? Is education in a trade substandard to that provided by a college or university?

Suze Orman once featured a man who was in tears because he racked up a bill of over $100,000 for his education and upon graduation was unable to find employment that payed more than $20,000 annually. Since education loans must, by law, be paid back, Orman’s response to his situation was, “This man’s quality of life would have been better if he’d become a waiter.”

Is this what we want for our students? Is this what we want for our children? Assessment data is valuable only when it is used properly. Data can help educators become better at their practice. Data can help educators identify areas of strength and deficit. Data can be used in many positive ways, but we have to ask ourselves, is this the reality of what we are doing?

The reality is that data can be used across the nation as an instrument to rate and filter students, to rate and filter teachers, and to rate and filter school districts. There is a very real and looming final destination of the ultimate demise of public education, resulting in an elevated upper class and a poverty stricken lower class. Could America actually become a third world nation? Or worse, an oligarchy or dictatorship?  If these are legitimate concerns, then educators should tread very carefully now and in the near future.

Americans have raised a generation of children who spend more time playing sports, watching television, going to movies, listening to music, and playing video games than they do reading. All of these activities are acceptable in moderation, yet because students are not spending the degree of time reading as students have in the past, they have not developed a vocabulary equivalent to that of past generations. Sample passages available on the PARCC website are written with complexity so high that an independent reading level of 1470L would be required to comprehend the text used on this assessment.  Sample questions require a Lexile score as high as 2240L.

The average Lexile used in the ACT, in contrast, is 1140L according to GAINS Education Group. Therefore, students must read at 1240L in order to independently comprehend most of the ACT. The ACT is not an effective measure of skill acquisition for students who read at a Lexile lower than 1240L because the vocabulary of the assessment is beyond that of their own. It would be the equivalent of taking an assessment in a language with which one is either unfamiliar or vaguely familiar.  If students had difficulty reading at 1240L, then why would they be more successful reading at 1470L?  This is the equivalent of the reading level necessary to comprehend text at the graduate level or needed at the entrance level in a career as a scientist.

Therefore, when so many students in so many districts across the country have already demonstrated a deficit in their ability to meet CRS standards, which in many cases may be due to the discrepancy between students’ vocabulary and that used by the assessment, why is the answer, “Raise the bar?”

“Human intelligence is so multifaceted, so complex, so varied, that no standardized testing system can be expected to capture it,” says William Hiss. Hiss is the former dean of admissions at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine — one of the nation’s first test-optional schools. “My hope is that this study will be a first step in examining what happens when you admit tens of thousands of students without looking at their SAT scores,” Hiss says. “And the answer is, if they have good high school grades, they’re almost certainly going to be fine.”

“The nonsubmitters [of Standardized Testing Scores] are doing fine in terms of their graduation rates and GPAs, and significantly outperforming their standardized testing.” In other words, those students actually performed better in college than their SAT and ACT scores might lead an admissions officer to expect. For both those students who submitted their test results to their colleges and those who did not, high school grades were the best predictor of a student’s success in college. And kids who had low or modest test scores, but good high school grades, did better in college than those with good scores but modest grades.

Educators MUST remember the original intent of standardized testing: “A big test, the theory went, would allow more ‘diamond in the rough’ students to be found and accepted to top schools, regardless of family connections or money.”

The focus of education should unequivocally be based on the response to these questions: What do our students need (I’m intentionally leaving this open ended)? What is their passion? What are they good at? What does success mean to them? How do student interests, passions, and strengths fit the needs of the community, the state, the country, and the global economy?

These questions should forever remain the foundation upon which education is built. Assessment should only be used as a means of getting students to their own unique destinations, and not as the end in and of itself. If the ACT assessment is not adequately fulfilling this need, then why would educators expect that PARCC testing to be any better? (And worth the significant expense?)

While legislators, administrators, colleges, and businesses are spinning their wheels trying to figure all of this out – my recommendation: Teachers should continue to do what they have always done. They should stay up to date in best practice, follow economic and career trends, and enable students to flourish in an environment that is forgiving enough to allow them to be children, yet supportive enough to help them realize the reality of their future.

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