Anchor Chart = An instructional tool created by the teacher with students to support a lesson being taught. It can be used to remind students of routines or what is important about the content of a lesson. It is created as the lesson is being taught or during a class discussion. It is a routine part of the life in the modern classroom and often becomes a permanent or semi-permanent part of the classroom environment. Anchor charts and other teacher-made or store-bought posters that support student learning are plastered all over classrooms in the United States. In my school, they are on bulletin boards, chalk boards, white boards, doors, on the sides of bookshelves, on cabinet doors and drawers, filing cabinets and even taped to windows or clothes pinned to the blinds of windows. THAT is how important they are in supporting students’ learning.
However, during the PARCC tests coming up twice before the end of this school year, those charts and other posters are on the “FORBIDDEN LIST” when it comes to preparing the classroom environment for testing what kids know and can do with what they know. So rather than being another learning tool in their repertoire of learning tools to be referenced, these have become objects to be memorized and taken down or covered up during the test. In my mind, it’s kind of like having to memorize the dictionary rather than referring to it when a key word needs to be clarified before going on in reading a story or article.
Let’s see . . . does a lawyer have to memorize the contents of his or her books in the law library? Do doctors have to write up the contents of the articles from memory about the dangers of diabetes for each patient who becomes diagnosed? Do mechanics have to memorize the correct tire size or wiper blade size for each make and model of car, domestic or foreign made?
What is the point of these hyper austerity measures being imposed on children today? How do these expectations resemble the real world and how do they prove that children are learning or not learning? Which colleges and careers require that children deny using reference materials to do their work or to do their jobs? COME ON??? WHAT IS THE POINT???? I’M SERIOUS!!!!
In my state, on the previous state standardized tests that we have given for years and years, the only things we had to cover up or remove were name plates on desks that included things like multiplication charts as well as posters that included step-by-step directions on how to write an essay. All other anchor charts or posters were allowed to remain visible in the classroom, just like any other day in the life of learners.
As a matter of fact, this whole concept that I value immensely (and so should we all) of “keeping it real” for students reminds me of a book I’ve been reading. More on that in a future post! But for now, chalk this post up to one more reason we need to:
PERMANENTLY PARK THE PARCC!!!
LET’S WORK TOGETHER TO STOP THIS MADNESS!!!
It is critical that we all understand that everything about the PARCC test is a sharp departure from the previous kinds of standardized testing that has ever been done. The standards upon which they are based were agreed to before they were even written. They were backwards designed from college all the way down to kindergarten. There were few people who are experts in the field of education and zero early childhood educators to help create them. The few who were knowledgeable in their fields have since come out against the standards. The standards are copyrighted and therefore OWNED by this one group and cannot be changed, except by them. And now these tests are going to take longer than those that adults who wish to become lawyers or doctors must take. There is something significantly wrong with this whole process. It has been highly secretive, left out important stakeholders in a democratic society, and has not been proven to accomplish what it claims to do: assure to prepare kids to be college and career ready. Yet they are being forced upon us, regardless of the legitimate concerns expressed, full speed (and a FAST ONE AT THAT) ahead! This speeding train needs to be stopped. Children are on board. Their safety (mental and physical) is at stake! We need to have our kids refuse to take these unfair, unproven tests that will be used to close our schools and continue to unjustly justify opening up more non-community, privately owned and operated charter schools that hand-pick which kids they want to serve. Save your communities by saving your public schools! Say no to PARCC testing and to the Common Core non-State $tandards they rode in on!
If my child is going to sit for 500 minutes to take a test there better be a good reason. To date, I have not heard of any.
What we know:
-The results are given in 6 months.
-We can never see the test.
-We are told every answer is “plausible”.
-We are told the text is above grade level.
-Only15% of ELA standards are tested. Writing, listening & speaking are left out.
-Field test questions are on the test.
-Prepping for this test has taken a month (or more) out of our children’s education and fractured a love of learning.
-There is no proof that this is a measure of college/career readiness.
-We are not preparing them to become “good” test takers, because this is the only 500 minute test they will ever take (regardless of college/career).
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So, let’s end the argument about how “voluntary” these inappropriate standards are or even WHY they are inappropriate. They ARE inappropriate because they don’t represent the will of THE PEOPLE. They are a corporate-driven, Gates-led, anti-democratic bunch of controlling words written primarily by non-educators who don’t really “give a sh!t” (David Coleman’s words, not mine) about what kids think or feel. And all of it is based on the lie that our schools are in crisis based on international test scores.
Our schools are only in crisis insofar as poverty is on the rampage and privatizers are being allowed to target those schools, many of which are also filled with mostly students of color, so they can justify closing them and handing them over to the profiteers who will show everyone how to make a fortune while bamboozling (VAMboozling, if you are a teacher) the American public and laughing all the way to their off-shore banks.
Where are all the fair-paying jobs that will help families alleviate their poverty-stricken circumstances that suppress their ability to focus, concentrate and learn? Oh, that’s right. The priority hasn’t BEEN jobs. It has been budget-cutting austerity measures that we’ve been told are necessary. Those cuts have crippled our schools making them desperate for additional funding any way they can get it. It was no coincidence that Race to the Top grant competition came along at the same time as the corporations and banks crashed our economy in 2008, further crippling our schools. It was also not clear the average American citizen that the Common Core $tate [sic] $tandards weren’t even finished being written when states who wanted to compete for the limited (not enough for everyone) funding required them to agree to adopt the standards, sight-unseen, regardless of winning the grant competition or not. THAT is how 46 states initially got misled into signing on the dotted line.
So enough of the madness. It’s time to slay this dragon and promote sanity by giving our schools back to the communities they belong to, led by the teachers who know how to teach.
Read all about what Gates did/said here:
This post by Diane Ravitch is a good follow-up to my post called “Reality Strikes.” It also explains how the level of difficulty of text and questions on the PARCC test are outrageous and make no sense.
But, something else also occurred to me when reading this. Diane ends with, “These are not good tests of reading comprehension. They are traps and snares.” So what is her conclusion? Does she think that the tests need to be improved or does the icon of fighting education reformers think Common Core $tate $tandards and the high-stakes tests that are inextricably linked should be eradicated altogether?
I wonder why this position wasn’t made clear at the end of her post. Would love clarification. I hope she will continue to advocate for an end to both!
Rebecca Steinitz is a literary consultant, writer, and editor in Massachusetts. She has a Ph. D. In English, coaches in urban districts, and has a daughter in seventh grade.
She wrote a letter to President Obama about the PARCC Tests, which her daughter must take, but the President’s will not.
Her daughter has always done well in school, but the PARCC test was a trial.
Here is a typical question:
“You have learned about electricity by reading two articles, “Energy Story” and “Conducting Solutions,” and viewing a video clip titled “Hands-On Science with Squishy Circuits.”In an essay, compare the purpose of the three sources. Then analyze how each source uses explanations, demonstrations, or descriptions of experiments to help accomplish its purpose. Be sure to discuss important differences and similarities between the information gained from the video and the information provided in the articles. Support your response with evidence from each…
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A recent staff meeting was interesting. We had been asked by our principal to take a PARCC practice test (at least part of one) ahead of time so that we, as a staff, could have a discussion about it at this staff meeting. My principal is someone who I would not consider to be a drinker of corporate reform Kool-Aid, but who also seems to be, in my opinion, only somewhat aware of the larger issues involved in corporate education reform. He is the kind of person who doesn’t like to dwell on what he has “no control over.” That is an amiable quality in most cases and has helped us focus more on what we can and should do much of the time, rather than get overly frustrated with the nonsense that has been flooding into our daily existence as teachers. But this time, it was hard to focus on getting “past” the outrage.
The teachers couldn’t get over how HARD the tests were. I will say that I never heard the word “rigorous.” Not once. There had been those who, when the standards were first published, had taken a look at them and actually liked their organization. They thought that it “made sense” to start at kindergarten and have the standards “spiral upward” from one grade to the next (yet they were DESIGNED BACKWARD from college level down to kindergarten). In professional development book groups, these same teachers had been engaged in reading about and discussing how to transition from the current set of state teaching standards to the new Common Core $tate $tandards and were pretty gung-ho about the mission of getting ready for “what was coming.” Some stated that we “had no choice” because the new standards were “the law” and “were here to stay.” After all, we teachers seem to have it in our DNA to rise to any occasion and “make it happen,” right?
But now there was a decidedly different feel in the room. The tenor of the discussion that followed had shifted from “let’s get ‘er done” to “this is ridiculous!!!” To his credit, the principal focused the discussion by asking teachers to notice what the demands of the test were, which did two things. First, it allowed teachers to vent about all the “major issues” they saw with the test. Second, he prepared us for the idea that we would look at those issues and see what was “within our control” to address through common sense instruction. Again, to his credit, he did suggest that he really wanted to see us continue the good quality instruction that he sees currently happening all over our building. And what he did suggest is that, based on these observations, maybe there were certain shifts or certain instructional techniques that we could implement that might help kids be more successful on these test when they are forced to face them next year.
So teachers noticed issues such as:
- how sophisticated the level of text was for the grade level being tested;
- how the excerpts were taken out of the context of the story in such a way that it really put the reader at a distinct disadvantage when trying to answer the questions without enough of the story line or background knowledge about relationships between characters;
- how sometimes there seemed that there were at least two answers with supporting evidence for each that seemed like it COULD be correct and it wasn’t clear how the students were supposed to be able to figure out which one was more correct than the other, especially if we ADULTS weren’t sure;
- how there were so many questions that required the student in one way or another to find evidence from the text to support their answer choice;
- how busy the page looked and how students wouldn’t know what all of the tabs and buttons were for;
- how there was more than one scroll bar on the screen at one time so students would need to know how to scroll the text of the story differently than scrolling to see the questions on the page;
- how there could be up to three different texts that the student would have read and to be able to “keep in their head” as they thought about what the question was asking them in order to compare or to analyze;
- how testing “stamina” was going to be an issue for MANY children, even those who hadn’t typically struggled in the past;
- how there were essays that they would have to type with whatever keyboarding skills they had;
- how they would have to type their essays into a text window that may require scrolling if their answer exceeds the space provided.
After compiling the list of what was noticed about how this test is different than the previous state standardized test and briefly talking about some the things teachers could do to help get kids ready to take this new test next year, teachers couldn’t help but share the angst that had been building up ever since they had taken the practice test themselves. One teacher said that we seriously need to get ready for students who are going to be emotionally and psychologically DEVASTATED by the experience of taking this test.
Others shared their own experiences and feelings as ADULTS when they took it. One teacher said that she had taken it at a time when she was pretty tired. She figured that her fatigued condition might somewhat mimic or help her compare her mental abilities at the time of the test to what a student’s ability might be like and she said that she was seriously straining to answer the questions and couldn’t imagine how frustrated and exhausted this was going to be for the students.
Another shared how she had her OWN son, who is a math whiz, take the math practice test. She said that not only was he exhausted when he was done, but he wasn’t even sure how well he may have done on it. And yet another teacher actually asked a top engineer adult friend of hers to take a test and he didn’t see the importance or relevance of MANY of the questions on the test. He deemed it a HORRIBLE test of knowledge for ANYONE who would want to be ready for HIS career. And of course, that begs the question of, “How can ONE set of standards and ONE set of tests prepare all children everywhere for every possible career out there, including future ones that haven’t even been created yet?”
Near the end of the meeting, one of the comments that our empathetic principal made to a group of teachers that he recognized as “feeling panicked” was something like, “In New York where they have been field testing this test, their scores have dropped from around 70-80% testing proficient to around 25-30%. And historically, anytime a new test has been introduced, there has always been a drop in scores until everyone has had a chance to adjust to the changes that have been made. So just know that we won’t be the only ones experiencing these drops. It’s going to happen everywhere, across the whole country. And then something is going to have to happen so it will all wash out. They will have to do something.”
I followed up the principal’s remarks with a few of my own. I first made it clear that I was speaking 100% for myself and not for him or for anyone else. I told my colleagues that it was my opinion from all of the books I had been reading, education groups I had become members of and from conversations with other teachers all over the country that these tests and the CC$$ that we are being required to teach have been carefully designed to, in fact, PRODUCE this failure of our children. I said that the corporate backers and the politicians they have cozied up to are working together to ensure that they can continue to label our schools and us teachers as failures so that they can close our public schools and open up charter schools to come in and save the day. They plan to break our unions by replacing us horribly ineffective, veteran teachers with cheap Teach for America minimally-prepared, temporary teachers. They plan to sell all of the states that have bought into this scheme all new CC$$-aligned materials in addition to the new online tests which require upgrades of technological infrastructure in ALL schools across the country. Cha-ching!
I told them that, in MY opinion, now that they have gotten a look at this test and are beginning to see where it’s headed, that they MUST become active in the fight against these forces. I told them that I respectfully disagreed with our principal’s assertion that “it will all wash out” when people all over the country experience the same level of difficulties or failures. I said that I wanted to personally encourage each one of them to read the research that is out there that is connecting the dots between corporate billionaires and the politicians that have passed the laws that tie our evaluations to all of this nonsense. I told them that it was MY opinion that it wasn’t going to go away without a fight and that I hoped they would read books like Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools as well as Kris Nielsen’s Children of the Core and Uncommon: The Grassroots Movement to Save our Children and Their Schools. I encouraged them to search for groups to connect with so they could join with other teachers around the country to resist these destructive forces and to actively fight back to save our public school system.
Some heads were nodding as I spoke my piece. Many of them know that I have been speaking up about this for a long time. Some of my closer colleagues know that I “do my homework,” but even so some of them and many others have been waiting for it to pass, like so many other trends in education have done in the past. But I hope that after this bit of reality struck them recently, they will decide that there’s a good chance I may be right and that, in this case, it’s time to actually DO something about it!