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The Numbers Game
by Susan Ohanian
Editorials like this one from the Star Ledger Editorial Board used to make me wonder if the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offered a course for editorial board writers. But the simplistic version of the corporate party line in this one isn't even PowerPoint ready. It looks like the writers copied it from half a tip sheet fished from the trash can.
Take-home lessons from the PARCC by the Star Ledger Editorial Board
New Jersey's poor performance on the PARCC test should come as a wake up call. Less than half the kids in our state are on the college track, it seems. Most don't even know enough to move to the next grade level.
And that raises a core question for opponents of this test, and all those who boycotted it: Would New Jersey somehow be better off not knowing these facts? To ask that question is to answer it. The notion is absurd.
The PARCC test, unlike earlier standardized tests, is designed to help teachers and principals identify exactly where kids are learning, and where they are struggling. That can help educators tailor their lessons to be more effective.
It also allows states to compare their performance to other states, with an apples to apples measure. Under the current system, each state offers its own tests. That allows them to claim success when their only real accomplishment is to lower the bar to artificially boost scrores. That's known as the "honesty gap" which many educators, and leaders like former Gov. Tom Kean, have decried.
Perhaps most important, these tests could be an important tool in the fight to close the achievement gap between black and white students, which stubbornly persists in New Jersey -- not just between cities and suburbs, but within racially mixed, suburban towns like Montclair. How can we fix that problem if we can't measure it?
Those who boycotted this test undermined those efforts. Yes, the resistance to testing is understandable, and many educators agree that the load has grown too large. But creative districts are finding ways to cope with that, like eliminating some of their own tests in favor of the PARCC exams, which offers this more authoritative evaluation.
And remember: Those who boycott the tests are affecting more than their own children. They are sabotaging the data for all children in New Jersey.
Resistance to PARCC also comes from the teachers unions, who tend to oppose any measure that can result in bad teachers losing their jobs, or even their scheduled path raises.
But the rest of the world embraces national tests like this. We want our kids to be able to compete with those in India, China, Germany or Korea. To do that, we have to raise the bar. We need real benchmarks.
The opt-out crowd knee-caps all of this. It's a protest that especially hurts poor kids, where much of the failure is occurring. We hope that next time, parents will think of them.
Sabotaging the data for all children; kneecaping something important. And so on. This high-pitched emotional drivel provoked 262 comments, most of them very angry. I'd just say that if this is the best the standards and testing folk can come up with, let's just declare Victory and move on to something more entertaining.
New Jersey Star Ledger
October 25, 2015
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