While my 3rd grader doesn't mind taking tests, I am one of the many parents in Maryland refusing PARCC on behalf of their children ("The problem with PARCC: Children should not be leaving standardized tests in tears," March 25). That's because the state-mandated administration of high-stakes tests negatively impacts my child's education every single day. In Baltimore City, 15 percent of all instruction time has been taken away from our children to accommodate testing this year. Even worse, many of the remaining instruction hours are focused on a narrowed curriculum bent on ensuring good test results. Teachers are handcuffed by testing requirements, severely limiting how much they can adapt lessons to the unique needs of their individual classrooms.
Data collected over the past 10 years shows that high-stakes tests like PARCC do not improve learning. In fact, learning progress has stagnated since these types of tests were instituted under No Child Left Behind (National Research Council study, Hout & Elliott, 2011). If not effective at advancing student results, why invest in these tests when we already have many tools in place to assess student progress? On top of the regular assessments teachers conduct in the classroom, all Baltimore City students receive district-mandated quarterly assessments. For state level assessments, there are bi-annual National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.
If, as some claim, the PARCC tests are meant to inform a more rigorous curriculum, that data could easily be obtained by testing a sample of students anonymously at well-spaced intervals. Such an approach would be cheaper and less disruptive than testing every child every year. Yearly PARCC assessments for every student seem more ideally suited to generating data for annual performance reviews of individual teachers and schools — with firings and school closings the logical outcome for "underperformers." In other words, PARCC will serve as a metrics sledgehammer, further dismantling the foundation of a public school system already deprived of resources by state budget cuts and funding diverted to charter schools.
Parents do not need to tolerate a system of over-testing that makes it harder for our children to learn, create and grow in their classrooms. Refusing PARCC to protect our students against the damages of high-stakes testing is the right of every parent in Maryland — and our lawmakers should introduce opt-out legislation that makes the process more reasonable. To strengthen our schools, we should demand investment in methods proven to advance learning progress, such as smaller class sizes, because our kids — and our schools — are so much more than just test scores.