How NJ teachers rescued children from Pearson’s PARCC computer crash

It's a good things teachers were around to save Pearson from a worse disaster
It’s a good thing teachers were around to save Pearson from a worse disaster

Teachers were the unheralded heroes of New Jersey’s statewide testing disaster. State education commissioner David Hespe called the screw-up “unacceptable” but his day was pretty routine. Ditto, the high-priced executives at Pearson, the test-publisher. Just a glitch, as the main stream media called it. But many suffered–and many teachers drew on their professional training, experience and mother wit to get hundreds of thousands of children through a really bad day.

Throughout New Jersey Wednesday, men and women in the public schools turned what could have been a major disaster into just another major screw-up attributable to incompetent state officials and a contractor with a $10 million state contract. There were heroes, the teachers whom Chris Christie, the state’s absentee governor, Donald Trump’s lap dog,  likes to bash and punish.

No one who has not been in front of a classroom knows the terror of facing 20 to 40 or morechildren for whom nothing has been planned–or, for whom what was planned had to be scrapped because a multi-billion-dollar foreign publishing firm like Pearson couldn’t get its act together.  As one teacher told this site–those who fail to plan can plan to fail.

Many adults don’t know how to deal with their own children if they are unexpectedly at home with nothing to do–but, yesterday, tens of thousands of teachers had to deal unexpectedly with hundreds of thousands of children who were supposed to be taking tests but couldn’t be.

Some teachers wrote in with their stories of trying to save the day made impossible by Pearson and state Education Commissioner David Hespe who has spent the last two years threatening parents and teachers–and, through them, children–with dire consequences if they opted out of taking Pearson’s PARCC test.

Here’s one story sent in by one of thousands of subs who were hired by districts throughout the state to help with the test administration–at a cost of millions of dollars Pearson will not repay. (As with all the stories here, no identifying information will be provided. Vindictiveness is a value in many New Jersey schools–and, in Christieland,  we know teachers can be disciplined just for talking about the idiocy of PARCC testing.)

“I am a retired teacher, but I was hired as a substitute to help out with the PARCC testing over the last two weeks.

“I was in school today getting ready to proctor when the announcement was made that PARCC was down. There was no information about when testing could resume.

“Ours is a small (school) with 90 minute block scheduling, so the PARCC testing did not disrupt the entire schedule. However, English and Math classes for 9th, 10th and 11th graders have been non-existent for nearly two weeks. And the two main computer labs, as well as the school wi-fi have not been available for instruction during testing.

“While English and math teachers have lost class time, the rest of the school classes are also impacted by the lack of computer access.

“Today, I spent the day inventing things to do since I had been hired with no job to do for the day. I managed to help one of the English teachers who was suddenly confronted with a class full of students–those who had been scheduled for testing–and no lesson plans whatsoever. It’s time to give thanks for master teachers–all of us. While she scrambled to get a lesson together, I gave her class a little intro lesson on Edgar Allan Poe. Between the two of us, we managed to invent a spur of the moment class that actually taught the students something.

Later in the day, I assisted another teacher suddenly faced with an unexpected class by helping her organize an educational game I’d used in my own classroom years ago.

 “With block schedules, teachers see each class twice a week for two blocks and when the schedule is disrupted like this, it completely throws any lesson planning completely off track. The stress of trying to come up with engaging classes at a moment’s notice is not for novices.

 “Many people think teaching is easy, but planning and developing effective, engaging lessons is hard, time-consuming work, not something easy to do at a moment’s notice. Today was a challenge for everyone involved.

 “To add to the problem, students in our school are also preparing to take the AP tests in English and math. With PARCC interrupting the schedule, much of that prep work has been shoved aside. Now, one more day of testing loses even more time from the AP work.

 “I will be going back to school tomorrow to help with what is now going to be the last day of PARCC. The district hired me to do nothing today. From what I’ve read there were many other substitutes hired to help with PARCC who were left twiddling their thumb today as well. While it’s nice to earn the money, it’s really not the best way for schools to spend their money.

 Perhaps it’s time Pearson paid the schools back for the unnecessary sub fees. There is certainly no way they can pay the students and teachers back for the time lost. “

Here’s another from a regular teacher:

“Today was supposed to be our first day testing. As teachers, we couldn’t get onto the PAN site. I had a feeling that this wasn’t going to go well, but I went to get my students from the playground. After breakfast, we had to wait for an announcement, and sure enough, testing was cancelled for the day.

“As a teacher, you MUST plan for your day. It’s like fail to plan, then plan to fail. As teachers, we PLANNED to test today, and I had plans to teach this afternoon as regularly scheduled.

“With testing  cancelled, I had to think quickly. My next literacy lesson needed prepping — copies of a text, note catchers, etc. I planned on taking PARCC as scheduled… So my lesson was not ready. I can’t leave my kids and just go do that. I literally had to either switch around my entire schedule, which my class is not used to, or wing my literacy lesson.

“Winging anything is out of the question for me, so I reversed my schedule so I can prep my literacy during my lunch time. Yes, I gave up my lunch so my students would be able to come back from lunch with their lesson ready to go and to continue the structure.

“But what upset me the most about the whole ordeal is that one of my little boys is sick. He’s not feeling well at all… Chills, sore throat, etc… He came to school sick just so he can take PARCC… and he really could have been home today taking care of himself so he can get better. As for tomorrow, I will create DOUBLE plans for my entire day… An entire set of back up lessons… Just in case this chaos happens again….”

Many teachers simply were prevented from doing anything for their kids–because the regular schedule had been so confused. Said one teacher:

“We had 9 half days because of PARCC. Special ed students won’t see me,  their reg ed (—-) teacher for three weeks. Benchmark testing for math and ELA starts Monday. Then teachers’ SGO’s. Then NJ ASK science. Good thing students had Netflix accounts because we watched movies today. Wish we could have gone to a real park. We have lost 5 class periods.”

Here’s a lament from a Newark teacher–where earlier power outages contributed to the disruption caused by Pearson’s screw up.

“Grades 7/8 started testing April 12 (we were notified of the date change when we returned from spring break). Day 2 of testing was canceled due to the underground fire at PSEG. Yesterday there were huge delays in testing because students had trouble logging into the site.

“Math was supposed to be 160 minutes yesterday.  If they were to start on time, they would have tested until noon. But because of the delays, they finished testing at 2:30. Then–today happened.  Because my school is K-8, testing had been pushed back two days. Instead of ending May 6 (not including make ups), we are ending May 9 and that’s of everything runs smoothly from today on.

” I think the biggest disruption to students is the inconsistency and the demands of testing.  It is sheer torture seeing the pain these students go through.  

 “I have friends in other districts and whose children take the PARCC. One friend told me how her honors-student daughter got so bored with the PARCC and its redundancy that she typed lyrics to a song as one of her responses.  

“Back to Newark…our testing was so long yesterday that all students had indoor lunch so not to disturb those who have unlimited time and because of the starting delay.  Meanwhile in (———-), my nephew, who is a 4th grader and taking PARCC this week,  had 3 recesses yesterday! 

 “Also Newark is participating in a field test so there’s an extra day of testing. Each grade level is testing for six days instead of five.

 “I would love to see (state-appointed superintendent Christopher Cerf and Hespe  forced to take this test. There is no way that this is humane for any one! “

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. J. Spagna

    Thanks for posting this. My daughter (6th grade) wasted an hour, then her school’s admins put them on a ‘delay day’ schedule as if the morning commute had been disrupted by snow. I am just so tired of our student’s March-April-May being ruled by a test schedule, rather than by learning new material and critical review of the rest of the year’s work. But that’s just one dad and taxpayer’s opinion.

  2. Pingback: News Roundup for Thursday, April 21, 2016 | Blue Jersey

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