In this podcast episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution, Heather is joined by Melissa Tomlinson and Jessica Clayton to discuss all the recent happenings in education in New Jersey politics. Melissa has appeared on this show a few times and always provides valuable information. You can listen to her past appearances here and here. These two education activists in New Jersey discuss P.A.R.C.C. testing and how it is not a reliable indicator of student performance. They also discuss the new school funding formula that Murphy and Sweeney have been battling over in recent months.
PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment Of Readiness For College and Career, and is the standardized test of choice in the New Jersey public education system. This is not the only standardized test, and standardized testing is not even the only means of evaluating students. A better option might be a portfolio-based assessment that more clearly indicates actual learning and not just test taking skills.
There are many issues with this high-pressure testing. Children as young as 3rd grade are required to take these tests which requires children as young as kindergarten to start learning test taking skills. These higher requirements make it harder for children to succeed in school. Since these tests are a graduation requirement the pressure is high for kids. Some teachers have had to set up mindfulness centers for their students, in part because of this elevated stress.
There is also an extreme racial bias in all standardized testing. All standardized tests are derived from the SAT tests, and one of the developers of the SATs was a member of the eugenics movement. These tests are used to segregate, and sort students based on performance. Since New Jersey is already one of the most segregated states concerning education, this can be extremely damaging.
Since these tests are used in teacher evaluations, it discourages great teachers from wanting to work in under preforming schools. Part of that evaluation is based on prior performance on these tests. So those who were behind find it harder to do better than those that started ahead of the curve. It sets up a cycle that is difficult if not impossible to break out of. The NAACP released a statement condemning tests and calling them out for being racist.
New Jersey recently put out legislation aimed at reducing the weight in teacher evaluations and shortening the testing period by 25%. It also reduced the number of tests at the high school level. Which sets up kids to be taking these tests as a graduation requirement as early as 9th or 10th grade.
These standardized tests do nothing to help students but do a lot to help the bottom line of companies profiting off these tests. Kids are being used as a tool to feed the machine of capitalism. Politicians are too weak or too bought off to challenge the status quo and really take bold action to protect public education.
One of the most powerful things parents can do is to opt out of these tests. Most parents don’t even know opting out is an option. There may be pushback from the schools, but this basic and safe civil disobedience is one of the only ways to put on pressure on the system to force a transition away from standardized testing.