On Friday, March 3rd, Jewell Elementary parents received a letter regarding PARCC incentives. Yes - it's THAT time of year. Many Colorado schools refer to PARCC as CMAS.
To catch new readers up to speed before I launch into the information about PARCC incentives, let me give you a quick recap. I taught at Jewell Elementary for four years. The first three years were absolutely amazing. We were working hard to become an inquiry-based democratic school. All of our hard work came crashing down in the 2015-2016 school year when we became a Relay Leadership School. All of our work, our beliefs, our identity, were erased, and we were mandated to follow the new mantra via Relay. My position at Jewell was eliminated last year.
Needless to say, this year, 2016-2017, things have grown worse. Relay policies play a large role in the instruction at Jewell Elementary. Teachers have minimal time to plan - most planning time is dictated. Children must now come in earlier to eat breakfast, and therefore teachers lose planning time in the morning. And of course, testing is everything. And now it is PARCC season.
The letter Jewell Elementary parents received Friday discusses two "recognition systems" that will be used during PARCC testing. One recognition system is a raffle. Students will receive tickets for attendance during testing days and tickets for putting forth their best effort on the PARCC test. At the end of PARCC, the children's tickets will be used to raffle off baskets of goodies. Parents have been asked to donate items for the baskets, although the letter states that donations are not required. The letter specifically states that only "new" items can be donated for the basket - and that items should be five dollars or less.
The second recognition is an "Attendance and Effort Party" which will take place in April, when PARCC is finally done. Only students who have attended all testing days AND have put forth their best effort will be allowed to attend the party. The party will include games, treats, music and a bouncy castle.
I could write a complete thesis on why this is so wrong on so many levels - I'm sure many of my readers could do so as well. However, today I'm simply going to share the Colorado law, House Bill 15-1323 , signed by the governor on May 20th, 2015.
This law specifically states:
(b) IF A PARENT EXCUSES HIS OR HER STUDENT FROM PARTICIPATING IN A STATE ASSESSMENT, A LOCAL EDUCATION PROVIDER SHALL NOT IMPOSE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES, INCLUDING PROHIBITING SCHOOL ATTENDANCE, IMPOSING AN UNEXCUSED ABSENCE, OR PROHIBITING PARTICIPATION IN EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES, ON THE STUDENT OR ON THE PARENT.
Students whose parents opt them out must be allowed to attend school.
Opt out students cannot be listed as unexcused.
Students who opt out CANNOT be prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities - such as raffles and little parties with bouncy castles.
Furthermore, as I reported last year, districts must have in place a policy to allow parents to opt their children out of tests. Aurora's policy last year was almost impossible to find.
HB 15-1323 states:
(8) (a) EACH LOCAL EDUCATION PROVIDER SHALL ADOPT AND IMPLEMENT A WRITTEN POLICY AND PROCEDURE BY WHICH A STUDENT'S PARENT MAY EXCUSE THE STUDENT FROM PARTICIPATING IN ONE OR MORE OF THE STATE ASSESSMENTS ADMINISTERED PURSUANT TO SECTION 22-7-1006.3.
The law has a lot more information as well, including how parents should be informed of what tests are being taken and so on - see pages 14-16.
I am told that other schools in the Aurora Public School District are also offering incentives for PARCC.
My heart goes out to the students and teachers who are being forced to adhere to these mandates which destroy true learning while filling the pockets of the corporations. I hope that parents will refuse to allow their children to participate in PARCC (and all other corporate testing) so that the teachers at Jewell can be allowed to teach. Parents, Jewell teachers are quite capable of telling you about your child's strengths and next steps without these corporate tests.
And bouncy castles and raffles? Please, don't insult the children and don't insult the teachers. Sadly the mantra in the public schools now is compliance to the corporate testing machine.
I was lucky enough to teach before NCLB, I remember what teaching and learning truly can be. If you are interested in seeing where the testing machine is headed, I recommend reading this post I wrote last year - The Opt Out Irony. Next, I recommend keeping a close eye on the blog Wrench in the Gears.
Jewell teachers, wishing you well. I miss you and the children. Let's hope Jewell leadership quickly drops these ridiculous PARCC incentives. You deserve better. Parents - please opt your children out of these tests.