Monday, March 16, 2015

Students Advocate Novel Civil Disobedience During PARCC Tests & Pearson Enlists Governments in Retaliation

*Tweet, baby, tweet -- Students share absurd PARCC question responses & Big Brother Pearson enlists local governments to act as Big Brother *NM districts into overdrive, bullying parents who opt their children out
News media have covered the test opt-out movement as the Common Core-based Pearson-owned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests have been rolled out: students walked out of school en masse in various locales in New Mexico; elsewhere students quietly or not so quietly opted out. And students and parents have engaged in many public demonstrations: In Colorado, in Illinois; today in Mississippi parents advised students to skip the test, today in Rhode Island protesting in defense of a teacher that spoke to students about the controversial PARCC test.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan ventured into a Chicago school recently, only to encounter people protesting the PARCC tests. See video at this site. (Was this part of a thinly veiled effort by Duncan to shore up mayor Rahm Emanuel's fledgling reelection campaign in the face of Chuy Garcia's increasingly formidable challenge?) This week Chicago activists sent this public letter to Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools CEO, telling them to stop the bullying and deceptions towards parents seeking to opt their children out of the tests.   He was challenged on Common Core, high-stakes tests and funding priorities. Ravitch's blog reported that outrageously, he flat-out lied when he denied that the federal government imposed Common Core and its attendant unfunded mandates.
Save Our Schools helped the discussion process by offering "The 12 Reasons We Oppose the PARCC Test."
Florida has withdrawn from a national consortium, but it still has a Common Core-based high stakes test. There a mother met with such district resistance to allowing her to pick up her own daughter that she had to call 911 to get her daughter released. The district said that parents picking up their children was disruptive of tests and therefor was not allowed.
A Colorado student cut to the central point: this is a test owned, controlled and promoted by a private entity: "We want a test where it is not owned by a private company but owned by the state and that way we actually have the people that know about the subject, that know bout what students need to know."

School districts, under the influence of state dictates for the Common Core tests, have resorted to 'bribing' students to take the test. For example, as Valerie Strauss reported in the Washington Post, the Morris Hills Regional New Jersey district is offering an American Express gift card to the grade with the highest PARCC participation.
Several districts are aggressively bullying and stretching the truth to get students to give in to the tests. One New Mexico district claimed that compliance with the tests was dictated by federal, state and local law. Read this report on administrator pressure on parents to comply, "Naming names: These school districts are bullying parents into PARCC testing they can actually opt students out of."

In the Diane Ravitch a post read "Time for Civil Disobedience." The article said, in part, “I would encourage all of my students to post pics of the questions or tweet the questions as they remember them. I did this several years ago when Indiana had just one graduation qualifying exam. I got reprimanded and transferred to a terrible inner city school, but the action did have some impact because the state had to admit that a great deal of the exam questions were wrong or too poorly worded to make sense. I realize that in today’s testing-mania culture I would probably have been fired, lost my license or maybe even jailed, but this stuff is so terrible we need to start some civil disobedience.”

Recent blog postings have mentioned some outrageous and creative responses. Actually, Twitter lit up with these irreverent suggested responses to test questions in the April 2014 round of tests.
"12 more ways students sabotaged the PARCC field tests" opened,

So, I think its unanimous. Everyone hates the PARCC test, except for those who made it, or can make money off of it.
Cornelius Bayler (@CorneliusBayler) April 12, 2014

Students have recognized that the tests are one absurd, sick joke and have advised their fellow test takers to give silly, absurdist responses to test sections involving written statements.
Spongebob Squarepants seemed to be a popular way to answer PARCC essay questions:

Just gonna click some f***ing answers and bull**** this PARCC test today. Not in the f***ing mood for this s***.

One student adopted thug typing style:
Guys remember the answer to number 4 on the PARCC is A$VP Trill Fo Lyfe
Another recommended using texting shorthand:
tbh I just wrote "idk" "wtf" and "huh?" in all the boxes on the parcc test
* * *
Students have reportedly shared test questions and answer choices over social media. Tweeting of actual questions, rather than snarky comments were what really sent Pearson and their enablers ballistic.
Pearson assuming authority over students; social media monitoring
After a student tweeted about a test question, the Britain-based multinational education and media mammoth Pearson announced that it was monitoring social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
But worse, beyond the fact that the organization is spying (albeit on a public activity) on students' online communication, is the fact that this is a private organization that has succeeded in leaning on public entities, state departments of education and local school districts, for the mission of disciplining those students. The Living in Dialogue blog has gone as far as to suggest that surveillance is a natural trajectory of high-stakes tests.
Surely, this is the corporatization, the privatization of the disciplinary role of government. First we saw the corporations initiate the privatization of education, now with Pearson telling governments to monitor and discipline students, it is assuming disciplinary authority over students. This is an ugly moment in American democracy.
Following Pearson's statement that it is monitoring students' behavior on the issue of test questions, a New Jersey local district superintendent sent an email to peer superintendents on the issue of student social media statements. After Bob Braun's blog exposed this (and his blog was temporarily hit by a denial of service attack --was Pearson leaning on the blog service hosting his blog?) the superintendent admitted that she indeed sent the email, and today the New Jersey State Education department issued a statement echoing some of the talking points.

Breaking news: the New Jersey Assembly Committee Chair has issued a call for Pearson to appear and explain its student surveillance policies.
Pearson, PARCC, SBAC in the Brave New World of high-stakes tests enlists in government to join them in playing the Big Brother role
Now, the critiques have been raised that tweeting on the tests disturbs the integrity of the tests. But the problem is that these tests have taken a life of their own, evincing a government juggernaut that is not backed by popular will. The tests have gigantic implications for students' own academic lives and but on teachers' professional lives and schools' institutional lives. Democratic activism has not led to the Democratic/Republicans' lessening of the testing onslaught. Furthermore, any contractual obligation upon students that might exist is an invalid contract. If there are such statements that students must assent to the students are not signing these on their free accord.
Furthermore, one child psychologist has argued that with the test-taker's alienation from the process the tests are alienating to students, and that ominously, in the process are committing "soul murder."
Joyce Murdock Feilke, a child psychologist, warns of the harm our society is doing to children by subjecting them to 10-12 hours of high-stakes testing. This stress does nothing positive for them. By the time the scores are returned, the children have a new teacher. The teacher is not allowed to see what they got wrong. The tests have no diagnostic value. The only beneficiaries are the testing corporations.
Thus, this weekend we saw a teacher posting on Diane Ravitch's blog a comment, which led to a full blogpost, "Teachers: Time for Civil Disobedience."

The Common Core test consortium pressuring upon districts to be vigilant about how students use their free speech does not end with Pearson and its PARCC tests. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) has made similar statement, but has gone a step beyond, in its one page memo, "Social Media Monitoring during the Field Test." Mercedes Schneider noted in her blog, "Smarter Balanced Offers Tips for Monitoring Students on Social Media." the SBAC suggested modus operandi:
The SBAC-suggested keys to successful social media “test security trolling”?
1) Set up a school social media site, and encourage students to join.
2) Search social media sites by keyword.
A sinister, deceptive aspect of this is that under this plan, schools would be pre-emptively work against students' free communication, using a school social networking site to monitor students without students' knowing of this.

More correctly, civil disobedience traditionally involves resistance to unjust laws and government policies. We should not grant the veneer of public legitimacy to Pearson, et al by calling opposition to their test rules "civil disobedience." Such resistance is resistance to corporate authority over our lives.