I Don’t Make My Children Take the PARCC Test

When PARCC testing time rolls around, all three of my children get excited.

You see, I don’t make my children take the PARCC test. I believe that children are tested too much and that the outcome of their education is not reliant upon a test. Yes, I agree that we, as a whole, need to have benchmarks so that we can see how each student is performing and how students perform as a whole, but my children also take in-class tests and are tested with MAPS at least three times a year. If educators (and I’m not talking just about teachers) can’t get a complete picture of what my child does and does not know in that time, then why are we doing these things?

Personally, I feel as a society we’ve forgotten that learning isn’t just an outcome, but it is also a process. And we are so focused on the outcome because it’s hard to measure worth if we don’t have something we can measure.

But, my middle daughter loves her some PARCC testing, so she takes it. And she gets excited about it.

On our way home from soccer practice last night, she said, “I messed up on the PARCC test today.” So I asked her what happened. She said she had to read a passage and then was asked to re-write the story from another perspective. Her mistake was that she just wrote, “In the mountains,” as a setting, but she wished she could go back and write something more descriptive.

I asked her what she could do now that she realized her mistake. She nothing, “Nothing! I can’t go back and retake that part! But I wish I could because I get a 5 every year, and now I won’t get a 5!”

Yes, she likes to measure things, too.

It just reminded me that the 5 rating, if that is the highest rating, is pretty inconsequential because just hours later, my daughter has already realized her mistake and has bettered her process because of it. Even when the test results come back from the school in months, my daughter will already have learned more than she knew in the moment she took the test; not just in the acquisition of knowledge, but the process of how to apply knowledge.

I asked my daughter if there was any value in that. She said, no because she won’t get the five.

But, I told her that there are many, many times in the upcoming years that she will make a mistake and wish that she could go back and fix it. She will say something that hurts someone’s feelings, she will make a mistake at work that will cost the company money, she will go down a path that she will question and regret. These mistakes actually will have consequence. And in these moments, there is really nothing she will be able to make that situation perfect. She won’t be able to get a 5. And she will have to give herself some grace. She will need to understand the process. She will have to know that she will have another chance to make a better choice.

Here’s what I love about learning, though. It’s actually never about getting the 5. People value 5s; they will tell you how smart you are and you may get into the high classes. But if my daughter only gets 5s, then she will never learn about how to become a better person.

Learning is actually about being in situations where you make mistakes, where you are present enough to recognize them, where you have a spirit that wants to find a better way and then you have the gumption to try something differently, something that you believe will be a better solution, the next time, whether you succeed or fail. THAT is the spirit of learning and the people who know this are the ones we actually stand in awe of as adults because they seem fearless in their pursuit of something other than, “Did I do enough to get a 5?”

I told her in one year she will take her last PARCC test, and when she does, she can take this mistake of not writing the setting the way she knows she can and do it the right way. But what the PARCC test, or any test, will not measure is this: her spirit and her process and her willingness to apply what she knows in all circumstances.

That is far more valuable and useful than any sort of measurement.

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I may do it all, but I have not done it all.

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