Zen and the Art of PARCC Testing

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We will do two full days of PARCC. That half day a couple of days ago might as well count as a full day due to the general absence of cohesive instruction throughout the school. Three divided by 180 amounts to a little less that 2% of the school year. Of course, that number does not include practice PARCC tests, PARCC discussions and specific class preparation for the test. Nor does include the second part of the PARCC test, coming at us later this spring. The actual number will be more than double that 2%, but it’s hard to breakdown that number. For example, my tutoring period has worked almost exclusively on keyboarding for the last month and half. That’s over 20 hours of possible instruction time spent getting ready for the PARCC test in one class alone: However, keyboarding is an extremely useful skill regardless, so all that typing to prepare for our first computerized test I personally count as a win-win. The testing numbers can be hard to break out, but they are nonetheless huge and of varying value. We still have multiple standardized tests to give later this year, too.

Report from yesterday: We survived again. I ditzed and handed out wrong tickets at one point, resulting in an influx of administrators that will be sending me straight to the massage parlor when this day is over, but all went essentially well. The kids managed to stay quiet. I managed to stare at them all day. Teachers are not allowed to clean, plan, use the computer or do anything else while testing is occurring for fear of missing some reportable “irregularity.” Students can at least color or read a book when they are done. I have to stare at testees and wander the room. I stare. I circle. I circle again. I reverse my circle. I sit on a table. I circle. I sit on another table. At first, boredom pushes in on me. Then I relax. I am in the now. Screens shine. Students move. A few pencils rise and fall on scratch paper. I stare. They glance at me. I give them the benign smile. I pat random shoulders. You are loved, I want to say. We are all trapped in this garbage compactor together. That’s O.K. Just do your best. We will all do our best. We will get our lives back. Some students are done. They color, skilled careful strokes that flesh out Dora the Explorer, minions and geometric patterns. I circle, waiting for the last students to finish in the profound quiet that is testing. This is not a time of hushed classrooms. Even when students are quiet, I am usually playing music. But we are silent. We are silence. We are the testing beast swooping noiselessly across Illinois and other states.