You can PARCC this where the sun…
Today my 6th grader, who earns straight A’s and is a perfect student – maybe even OCD about it all – was totally stressed out about taking the Common Core PARCC tests this week. Her dad and I have said multiple times, “Don’t worry about it – just stay focused and relaxed and you’ll do fine. These test don’t matter to your grades or anything.” We are hoping our nonchalance will calm her. But it occurred to me that I don’t actually know what the tests cover. So I visited the official PARCC website to read through the PARCC test topics.
To be clear, I’m not against testing and I do believe that some standardization of curriculum across all districts helps students whose districts may otherwise provide (too much) obscure or outdated content. And, I like the idea of teachers being evaluated and having goals for themselves and their students. (Teachers do, too! I know because my mom was a teacher for 22 years.) Additionally, I share the opinion with many others that testing must be done well in order for it to reflect the information we seek. As I understand it, what we seek to measure is our students’ preparedness for success in a global economy.
So, first off let’s think about the context of a global economy. Dynamic, innovation-obsessed, fast moving and ever evolving. Myriad cultures, wide range of belief systems, shifting markets and economic structures. Digital media and technologies lead or heavily influence every economic sector and most social situations.
Next, let’s ask, who does well in these environments? Fast-adapting, analytical thinkers who can consume a lot of information and process it critically, emerging with synthesized yet innovative ideas. Work well in culturally diverse environments. Are skilled users and developers of digital technologies. Creative and independent problem solvers whose approaches evolve and adapt. In sum: tech-savvy, creative, culturally-adaptive, critical thinkers and problems solvers.
The PARCC test for grades 6 – 11 “Research Simulation Task and Literary Analysis Task” grading rubric measures include, for example, Student addresses the prompt and provides effective and comprehensive development of claim using clear and convincing rhetoric. (By the way, this sounds like what Congress has gotten really good at and look where that has gotten us.)
Additionally, Establishes and maintains an effective style, attending to the norms and conventions… Finally, Student response demonstrates purposeful coherence, clarity, and cohesion, making it easy to follow…
There’s more but you get the idea: Can your kid read something and then write a “normal” descriptive essay about it – that anyone can read?
No wonder my kid is so worried. We are preparing her for a Stepford World when she is living in sci-fi fantasy land where everything changes all the time and the only ones who will survive can adapt with creativity and critical expression. We don’t need kids who can regurgitate. We need kids who can CREATE. We need kids who can take in lots of information, smush it up in their heads, and come back with a totally new idea, approach, or style, that responds to a problem that yesterday didn’t even exist. And, we need teachers and tests who can prepare these kids.
Here’s a suggestion to the folks who work on the Common Core: Maybe instead of raising the next generation of convincing rhetors (we have enough on Fox News), let’s raise a generation of creative minds and hearts who embrace change, thrive in diverse contexts, love innovation, and approach the (too damn many) problems they will inherit with critical thinking, originality, and compassion. We need a Creative Core that builds a Creative Corp.