Science Park teachers: PARCC is “30 days of destruction”

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The following statement was drafted and endorsed by 35 teachers at Newark’s Science Park High School, a school consistently rated as one of the top public schools in New Jersey and the nation.

To Whomever Will Listen:

We are teachers at Science Park High School in Newark, New Jersey, and we are deeply disturbed by the thirty days of disruption being forced on our school. In the coming weeks, like the rest of New Jersey, we will be forced to administer the PARCC exam.  A few weeks ago we saw the schedule: three weeks of testing in March, followed by three weeks of testing in May. This total does not include the additional week of make-up testing following each of the three-week periods. This total does not include the days of mandatory test preparation to familiarize students with the exam’s very specific computer interface. This total does not include the thousands of hours of training of teachers and administrators to plan, schedule, and execute this exam. We honestly believe that The State of New Jersey, by forcing us to administer this time-devouring test, is engaged in behavior destructive to the educational well being of our students.

We believe that the thirty days of disruption could just as easily be called the thirty days of destruction. Science Park High School is a Blue Ribbon school. We, like many teachers in Newark and throughout New Jersey, have dedicated huge parts of our lives to making certain that our students receive an excellent education. We come in early.  We stay late.  We give up our weekends.  We wouldn’t change our dedication because we love what we do. We love the students we teach. Our love forces us to say something.

We do not believe that parents and administrators who work for the State of New Jersey understand the destructive impact this testing will have on our ability to teach students. Some teachers will be removed from their classes for a week. The second week that same teacher may not have any students because they are being tested. In the third week they may have only partially filled classes. The disruption will continue with some students still absent from class during the fourth week of make-up exams. Then we have spring break, three weeks of teaching in April, and in May we test for a second three-to-four week period. We say again, in May we test for a second three- to four-week period!

We value our time in the classroom with our students. Teachers are important to the educational process. It is wrong to stop the educational process for close to 17 percent of the year to administer an exam. We could talk about further objections, like the use of a confusing computer interface, or the use of an exam that many highly educated and successful people have difficulty completing. But thirty days of testing is sufficiently outrageous and — we believe — indefensible.

There are three questions this schedule raises that demand answers:

1. Why is 30 days of testing disruption more beneficial than 30 days of classroom instruction? We have never heard a pedagogical justification for this and could not imagine what one would be. Explain to us how this is about the education of our children.

2. How much are the State of New Jersey and private foundations spending on the creation, training, execution, and grading of this exam, and who is financially benefitting from this? There is so much in education that we cannot afford, that we must fund out of our own pockets. There are so many teachers and clerks and drug counselors and attendance counselors who have been laid off, in our own building, in our district, in our state. What is the financial bottom line?

3. If this PARCC exam is so valuable and good, how many of New Jersey’s top private schools have adopted it? Is Delbarton or Newark Academy or Pingry subjecting their students to the “educational benefits” of this exam?

Although we, the undersigned education workers, do not represent the entire faculty at Science Park High School, we are confident that every member of our faculty shares our critique of this exam.  We are even confident that many principals and superintendents not brought in by the current regime share our critique.  Yet many are afraid to speak out because they fear retaliation against themselves, their principal, or even the entire staff or school if they dare voice their honest, professional opinion.

We who have signed this letter cannot live in fear.  We are offended by the situation in which we find ourselves, in which education policy is dictated by billionaires who never taught a day in their lives, while our patiently gained professional expertise is ignored.  Even worse, we are offended by a situation where many honest, hard-working education workers feel afraid to voice their professional opinion for fear of backlash.

What type of teachers would we be if we taught our students about the First Amendment, yet did not voice our professional opinion?  What type of teachers would we be if we taught our students about civil rights movements, yet neglected to defend them from this exam?  With these questions in our conscience, we are not afraid to issue this clear statement.

We love teaching. We love our students. Our collective educational opinion is that PARCC’s thirty days of disruption is bad for our schools and bad for our children.

Bob Braun’s note: Due to technical difficulties, I was unable to reproduce the signature pages of this statement. However, these are the names appended to the statement. Because the names were hand-written, I may not spell some correctly. Corrections are requested and will be made ASAP.  My apologies for any mistakes. Here is the list of names in the order they appear on the statement:

Branden Rippey

Hubert McQueen

Filip Spirovski

Kim Schmidt

Jose Gomez-Rivera

Anthony Moreno

Luan Goxhaj

Patrick Farley

Ana Serro

Cheryl Bell

Jonathan Alston

Randy Mitchell

Claudia Amanda Pecor

Justin Mohren

Cristiano Liborio

Carolina Parasiti

Doretta Sockwell

Aziz Kenz

Marta Ilewska

Veronica Naegele

Richard R. Selander

Chaunte’ Killingsworth

Jim McMahon

Marcellus D. Green

Michelle Benjamin

Peter Wang

Mario McMiller

Ben Patiak

Lisa Bento

Lorenzo Cruz

Jeanina Perez

Pamela Cole

Ana Aranda

Joseph Okil

Philip Yip

 

 

 

 

 

 

38 comments

  1. booklady

    Is this eloquent statement being sent to NJ State Board of Education, Christie/Hespe’s task force re PARCC, Arne Duncan?

    Bob Braun: It is an assumption of the intelligent, rational, and articulate that eloquence makes a difference to those in power.

  2. Chris

    Bob, first name in the list is Branden Rippey, the building rep at Science Park. Glad to see Branden leading by example as always!

    Bob Braun: I changed it, with my apologies to Branden.

  3. Becca Fields

    Thank you! I hope these teachers lead the way for others to follow. Teachers and the unions. Bravo. Brilliant statement.

  4. I stand with you!!!!

    Thank you Bob for printing the letter from the Science Park teachers. I commend them and am so proud of them. I hope they do not receive any backlash. I too am a Newark Teacher, but am not using my true name, because I have already received backlash for speaking out on this issue and other issues important to our students.

  5. Question?

    Where does the NTU, AFT and NJEA stand on the PARCC Assessment?

    Why aren’t we hearing their voices and having them stand up for the students the way these 35 Newark teachers stood up?

    • Becca Fields

      Njea has taken a strong stand against PARCC and high stakes testing. Not sure what NTU is doing locally in Newark, or AFT in state. AFT national has put out some letters but not the campaign we have from NJEA in state that I know about

    • chane1957

      The NTU was very aggressive in having its members call contract their legislators to support Assembly bills to slow down and stop PARCC. Now they have us calling the Senate.

  6. P. Grunther

    As a teacher I would like to thank the authors and signers of this letter. I could not agree more, and whether this letter actually ever brings about any change, I for one believe that it is important to make such statements and take such stands: we do it for the children we serve and for our own sense of dignity. We know that the powers that be, the ones who are causing the disruption in education, will not heed the letter’s message, but hopefully it may reach uneducated, unaware people out there who still don’t understand what is happening.

  7. C schwarz

    Thank you for speaking out on this horrific situation. You are brave…you are wise…you are right! And there are many parents aware now! Together my hope is we can take our schools back. Thank you again!

  8. Another Voice

    Lets not forget that we also have to still administer the HSPA for our Seniors that didn’t pass it last year. That was disruptive enough. Combine the two and MAJOR disruption occurs.

  9. Pingback: Thirty-five brave NJ teachers take a stand against ‘time-devouring’ PARCC test | Twitchy
  10. B. Parker

    I am so proud of the teachers at Science High! This letter is a reflection of how EVERY teacher in the U.S. should feel, whether their school district is a part of PARCC or not. Many parents are opting their children out of this test and KUDOS to them. So much time is being taken away from teaching and yet children continue to be tested. My question is how can you assess when they haven’t been taught properly?

  11. Mary KH

    Teachers in Ohio stand with you! Our PARCC tests have begun and they are an unmitigated mess. Tech problems are reported daily, and tests differ from student to student. I cannot see how these “assessments” can possibly be considered valid.

  12. edlharris

    In Maryland the PBA component(75% of the way through the school year) of PARCC opens tomorrow (March2 – March 27).
    Then the EOY component (90% of the way through the school year) begins on April 20th (one week after spring break) for 4 weeks.

  13. Retired NPS Teacher

    BRAVO!!! These are the people who move our children! My generation of teachers were NOT afraid to speak up for a good cause. Now the young teachers are afraid to lose their jobs. We are producing a nation of test taking robots. Our children are less and less “educated” because we are teaching to tests. How are we preparing these children to THINK and be productive? BRAVO to these 35 teachers who are choosing to stand tall! I applaud you. We need to educate our children. These tests only measure the ability of some children to “take a test”. Some of our brightest students did not test as well. It is an ability more than knowledge. I had a student who tested poorly, was an excellent student all year long and is now doing her doctorate. What does that say about testing????

  14. Rev. Tony Johnson

    I have the deepest respect for the teachers who have taken a courageous stand on behalf of their students. The sham of high stakes testing is being challenged in many places. The Science Park teachers have eloquently exposed the PARRC disaster for what it is. Thank you, teachers. You are doing your job. You are setting an example for your peers and your students.

  15. aejohnson

    So, even if I opt out, what does my child do in school during the 30 days of testing? Is it the reponsibility of the school to accommodate my child?

  16. Another Newark Teacher

    Awesome job, Science Park teachers! Please send a copy to all Newark (and other NJ school) building reps and offer *all* teachers a chance to sign on. I would gladly do so!

  17. TW

    “Is Delbarton or Newark Academy or Pingry subjecting their students to the “educational benefits” of this exam?” I realize this is a rhetorical question, but it’s worth emphasizing that the answer is a resounding “NO!” I moved my children from public school to one of these schools in the last couple of years, in large part for all the high-stakes-test-related reasons these teachers cite. In fact, having attended admission events at both Pingry and Newark Academy, I can attest that those schools explicitly promote the fact that they do NOT waste valuable educational time on test prep. The major selling points at these schools are all the things abandoned by the “reformers” who push standardized testing: small class sizes, rich curriculum, personal attention, teacher experience, etc. These are the kinds of schools chosen by the people who promote high-stakes testing for everyone else’s kids.

  18. Pingback: Teachers at Top-Rated High School in Newark Protest PARCC and “30 Days of Destruction” | Diane Ravitch's blog
  19. 3rd grade teacher

    Took 1/2 hour to log in today for a 75 minute test. 7 questions, and most finished before an hour. Try having 3rd graders type an essay in a little box. They see small box, they write small essay. Ridiculous.

  20. Terry Brewin

    I am a Science Park teacher whose name should be on the list. Unfortunately I was not at the meeting the day the letter was signed, but fully endorse the statement.

    The students at Science are very organized, as is the Parent organization. On day one, out of 170 freshmen, 140 opted out and did not take the test. Due to the low turnout of students, classes were allowed to resume as normal and the students who did not test followed their regular class schedule and did not miss out on valuable instruction.

    From my understanding, this did not happen at other schools. I also heard that some schools were not accepting the opt-out letters signed by parents and made the students take the test anyway. They placed students in front of the computer with the hopes they would get bored and take the exam. Ridiculous!

  21. Barry

    The testing companies are a for profit entity. It designs test and more test to justify its existence in to continuing to make a profit, and bigger profit each year on irrelevant testing. This testing thing is a “corporate hustle” designed for profit at the expense of the MISEDUCATION OF OUR CHILDREN. Corporations and politicians have duped the public they serve on testing. I am sure , if you follow the money trail, kick backs and shoddy profit deals are being made with politicians and former education administrators, who have influenced school districts into purchasing the administration of these test on our children. Teaching is not being done in the classroom. Teachers are teaching our children how to pass the test that is playfully designed by test makers. This is not teaching and it has to change. Testing should be based on classroom activities from books utilized in the classroom and by the school system. Any testing given that is not based on what is learned in the classroom should be illegal. And that is what these tests are. They are illegal. They are medicating our children. They are depriving teachers from teaching students the basics of reading writing, and math. And forcing our teachers to teach to pass a test. Moreover, this testing is riveted with corporate profit motive and corruption, and not designed to enhance and compliment what teachers are teaching in the classroom. This must end. And end NOW!!

  22. Brian T.

    At my school in Paterson the kids are just putting A’s for all the answers . This test is BS, we dont have $ for basic supplies, field trips or extracurricular activities but they have money for this stupid test. I wish we could have a student union

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  29. Debra S. Patterson

    Kudos to all the teachers whom stood up and spoke up for what they believe in by placing a signature on this letter. Money and/or fear of losing your job should never dictate your morals and/ or beliefs. Hopefully other administrators follow these amazing leaders. Stand up and speak out or blend in with the crowd.

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  31. V

    I do not understand how this business is run. Newark needs to be given its right to children’s education. It is being run by money hungry thieves. If we speak, we will be heard.

  32. BOE Member

    Thank you Science Park teachers for taking a courageous stand! In this, and other cases of proposed school reform I continually ask the question, “Are they doing this at Pingry or Blair Academy?” These institutions seem perfectly capable of preparing their students for the academic rigors of top colleges and universities. We would do well to emulate their example, not to mention save a great deal of our (we, us, taxpayers) money. One further point, if my children were absent from class for the number of hours/days required to administer the PARCC, they would likely not be eligible to continue to the next grade. I equate this time to a void in the consistent delivery of instruction. In essence, an absence from school.

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