I Refuse to Administer the PARCC: A Letter to the Citizens of Colorado

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Citizens of Colorado, I address this letter to you, because you are my community, my people. You have the power to shift the momentum in our public schools – where our students are increasingly being taught to the test under the intense high stakes conditions created via Race to the Top. Meanwhile, child poverty is ignored. I send this letter to you because I have made attempts to have a dialogue with the decision-makers. I have spoken with Secretary Arne Duncan, I have written to President Obama, and I have spoken in front of the Colorado Legislative Education Committee, all to no avail. So, I address this letter to you, in the hopes that my words and my actions will create momentum across our beautiful state for the children of  Colorado.  Thank you.

Dear Citizens of Colorado,

I am a teacher in the Aurora Public School District. I am writing to let you know that I will be refusing to administer the PARCC in the 2014-2015 school year. I do not stand alone in my refusal of this high stakes test. I join the ranks of educators across the country who are fighting back against policies and mandates that ultimately harm our children and destroy our children’s opportunities to become confident, active, problem solving citizens.

I have watched the testing increase over my 18 years of teaching in the public schools. I have watched what it has done to my ability to meet children’s needs and to allow children the opportunities to engage in learning that is authentic – learning that furthers the purpose of these children’s lives. This year, in particular, I am watching an onslaught of common core curriculum infiltrate our schools, along with additional tests and test prep to add to the test load which permeates every minute of every school day.  I hear again and again that I should find the “good” in this curriculum and make the best of it. I am a literacy coach, therefore, I work with many teachers and children in our building. I believe our children deserve better than simply, my ability to find the “good” in this common core test prep curriculum. I believe our children deserve what President Obama’s children have at Sidwell, where teachers have autonomy to teach without scripted common core curriculum and common core high stakes testing.  I take objection to the fact that our children are being used as guinea pigs in an experiment to implement standards which were never field tested, are copyrighted,  were not created using a democratic process, and were not created with the input of classroom teachers. Furthermore, the Common Core standards have placed unrealistic expectations on our youngest learners, many who now view themselves as failures, because they are unable to meet the developmentally inappropriate expectations set by the Common Core standards.

I also refuse to administer the PARCC because I believe that participation in such testing gives the test credibility – of which it has none. The PARCC test was designed to assess the Common Core standards which are not grounded in research, nor are they internationally benchmarked. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the Common Core standards, Common Core curriculum and Common Core testing, will in any way close the achievement gap. It will do the opposite. By funneling all of our tax dollars to corporations for curriculum, tests and technology to implement the test, we have ignored the elephant standing in the middle of the room – the number of homeless school children in Colorado, which has more than tripled in the last decade.  The poverty rate of black children stands at approximately 40% while the poverty rate of  Latino children is approximately 30%. Colorado also has the third fastest growing rate of childhood poverty in the nation. We know quite clearly that children who have quality nutrition, healthcare, as well as access to books via libraries with certified librarians, and all the other resources provided to children in particular zip codes, actually, have done quite well on standardized tests in the past. Yet, we continue to ignore this fact, and we continue to feed our children living in poverty only tests. In order to pay for these tests, technology, and curriculum, we strip our schools of much needed resources such as books, small class size, librarians, nurses, counselors and more. Closing the achievement gap requires closing the resource gap.

As we consider closing the achievement gap, it’s important to recognize that New York has administered the Common Core test two years in a row, both years resulting in approximately a 70% failure rate state-wide. Our achievement gap is increasing. And we continue to funnel our money away from the schools and directly into the pockets of profiteers.

I am responsible for making pedagogical decisions to support the learning of students and adult learners on a daily basis; the state and federal mandates currently in place hamper my ability to do what is best for learners. There are better ways to assess children. Currently, the assessments being used assess only narrow learning, derived through continual test prep in our classrooms. They assess what matters least, and such learning will not create innovative thinkers or citizens who can salvage our democracy.

I believe that refusing PARCC is the first step in taking down the Common Core boondoggle which streamlines student data (violating the privacy of children) to create more profit for the corporations. I also believe that refusing to administer PARCC is the first step in saving our profession, which is being hijacked in numerous ways by those who know a lot about increasing profit, but who know nothing about teaching children.

Our children are not gaining from the Common Core standards, curriculum, and testing; instead, I see corporations profiting immensely, along with politicians and various other individuals who have jumped on the Common Core train. The link between the Common Core standards, curriculum, and testing, is inextricable. They are linked together intentionally in order to increase profit. Public education is the new cash cow; privatization is the end goal. We must begin to take down this profit machine by beginning with the data the corporations so dearly love. No data. No profit. I will not hand over Colorado’s children (and their data) to the corporations via federal mandates.

I encourage everyone who stands with me to sign in the comment section below. I also encourage everyone to share the letter with national and state leaders.  However, I do not believe that change will come from the top, which is why I have addressed this letter to you, the citizens of Colorado. We must be the change.  Sometimes change requires risk.

I must do right by the children of Colorado and the teachers of Colorado, therefore, I refuse to administer the PARCC.

Peggy Robertson
Public School Teacher
Aurora, Colorado
www.pegwithpen.com
www.corave.org
www.unitedoptout.com

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89 Responses

  1. Judith Casey says:

    i am with you as a retired elementary principal in Colorado Springs – let me know how I can support our work as you so eloquently outlined!

  2. Kari Kovach says:

    Four of my children will be refusing the tests!

  3. Christi Canterbury says:

    I will stand with you!!! Thank you so much for standing up for all our kids!!!

  4. Carla Farris says:

    I 100% believe depriving the district, state and corporations from our children’s data is the key to stopping this abuse. As a parent I will advocate to the ends of the earth my daughter’s right to an education that honors her as a whole, creative, wonderful child. I will also fight for all children. They deserve better than what this district and state are offering. Shame on the adults making these abusive decisions! Thank you to all who are in this fight! Thank you Peggy for strong guidance for those of us who are not certain which way to turn sometimes!

  5. ali says:

    I totally agree with you. A few questions. If my son doesn’t take the test, will it count as a zero against his school and teacher? Most say YES, some say no. Also, what do you teach? Will this jeopardize your job if you do not administer this? How are you getting around that? I think I would be penalized.

  6. Denise Borcas says:

    Citizens of beautiful Ohio need to read this too.

  7. Alex Darc says:

    So well stated. A child who struggling with poverty, learning disabilities, or just problems at home will never “race to the top” on a diet of test prep.

  8. I’m with you all the way! Let me know how I can help!

  9. JAKELL SULLIVAN says:

    Peggy. You are a true hero. I am a parent in Utah and stand with you! Thank you for caring more about children then personal security. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I hope that the good people of Colorado with rise up and opt out of these tests with you.

  10. em says:

    Bless you for standing up for the children!

  11. Wendy says:

    Well said. Thank goodness for teachers like you.

  12. Shannon Wojciechowski says:

    I’m with you.

  13. I stand by you and with you against Common Core and PARCC. I will share your letter widely and intend to read it at the Fremont County RE1 school board meeting in September (22nd).

  14. I commend you for your courage. I look forward to representing the field of pediatric clinical/neuropsychology while speaking in several states specifically regarding the issues you have brought forth in such a blunt, yet elegantly professional manner.

    Specifically on the issue of “poverty”, I will be devoting a touching, yet factually based argument against the usage of this, and other high stakes tests, for this population. The premise of my argument, however, will not be based on public policy or political foundation. The effects of poverty have a significant negative neurological effect on the brains of youngsters, and such is exasperated to the point where taking these types of “tests”can be deemed not only as abusive, but the results coming from these kids are more than likely psychometrically useless.

  15. Kristi says:

    I applaud your courage and tenacity. You are a true warrior for our kids!

  16. Susan Polos says:

    I stand with you, too. We have to stand up and stop this madness. Thank you!

  17. Darla says:

    Good for you! I was so thrilled to come to Utah a few years ago from the Western Slope and find traditional education again. Not so now. We are fighting the same battle here. More teachers who are willing to stand-up and say “no-way” adds credibility to all the mommy and daddy gut instincts that have recognized that something is not right for years. Thank you for your courage. You are not alone and I wish you well, for your own sake and for the sake of all my friends raising children in Colorado.

  18. Susan Bowles says:

    Hooray for you!
    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Kids matter. I am the Kindergarten teacher in Florida who refused to give the FAIR test which would have required giving up six weeks of instruction over the course of the school year. The commissioner of education suspended the test for this year due to technical glitches.

    Testing is out do control. Has the workforce improved as these over tested kids have come through the system? I would love for us to get feedback from employers. We have the teacher support. We have the parent support. We need the business and industry support sans Pearson and the like. Best of luck. You are in my prayers.

  19. Heather MacPhail says:

    Thank you for standing up, your bravery, your dedication and direction and being a beacon in the storm! Standing with you!

  20. Sandy Stenoff says:

    Two children and everyone else that we can support in opting out across Florida. We are with you, Peggy. All the way. Thank you for standing up.

  21. Denice Dirks says:

    THANK YOU! I support you all the way. I will be refusing PARCC/CMAS tests for my 4th and 6th graders.

  22. Lisa Johnson says:

    Solidarity!!!!! I stand behind you 100%. Good luck to you in your fight for what’s best for our children. This takes a huge act of courage and I’m proud to say we are colleagues even though I don’t work in your district! You are in my thoughts and prayers!!!

  23. Robin says:

    I totally agree with you. Thank you for taking such a courageous stand for our children. You are a true hero.

  24. Laura says:

    Thank you Peggy! I have been praying for parents and teachers to rise up against high stakes testing. All children need protection from profiteering reformers. Your courage and tenacity is an inspiration to teachers and parents all over this country! Go team!

  25. Cassandra Kramer says:

    I will always stand with you. My kids do not participate in the destruction and I continue to educate/help as many parents do the same as I can.

  26. Ivan says:

    I and our whole family are with you too.

  27. Chayla says:

    I will share this and am hopeful that others will too. We need a strong showing of parents and professionals who know this is wrong, in order for those that make these educational decisions to listen!!

  28. Maria Glass says:

    Thank you in the name of children and their parents. First step toward stopping this ubertesting insanity is to refuse to participate.

  29. Kudos to you! I admire your courage and hope it will inspire more educators to take a stand for what they know is right. No high stakes tests! No Common Core! No pr

  30. No privatization of public schools!

  31. scott hansen says:

    I support your stand and greatly admire you for standing for what is best and right for students. Yay!!!

  32. Cynthia Bostwick says:

    I am a parent in Michigan and I support you. This is the third year I have formally opted my now 5th grade son out of all standardized testing. His teachers have never objected, but they have families to support and do not publicly say what they say to me privately. You are correct on so many levels. You are a hero to the children you teach.

  33. Lafayette reader says:

    Thank you for our stand and for your letter, which describes so clearly the same set of problems facing all other states with high poverty rates. My state has very high childhood poverty and suffers from the same sets of deprivations. Our school system is also driven by high-stakes test-based wrong-headed reforms. Thanks for speaking out!

  34. Cheri says:

    Thank you for this selfless and brave letter. Thank you for leading the way. Hopefully, this will give more teachers and school boards the courage to say no. Please know that SO many parents and teachers are behind you.
    These school board members also said no to the SBAC test- based on student privacy. Read their letter below. You are not alone!
    http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/alpine-school-board-members-speak-out-for-student-privacy/

  35. Allison says:

    Thank you so much for standing up for what is right!

  36. Carmita Vogel says:

    I support your refusal 100%. I also applaud your strength of character and willingness to do the right thing. I am in Maryland and do not allow my child to test and hope more parents and teachers take this step to starve the data machine of its feast.

  37. Sheila Resseger says:

    Bravo! My profound thanks to you, Peggy, for your courageous stand and your eloquent testimony to what is irredeemably wrong with the corporate driven education reform agenda. As a retired ELA teacher of the deaf in RI, I am profoundly aware of the travesty of the Common Core $tate (sic) [Stealth] $tandards and the incessant PARCC testing on the most vulnerable students. Standards that ignore 50 years of peer-reviewed research in child development, first and second language aquisition, and English literacy development are harmful for all students, but most egregiously harmful for students with disabilities, English language learners, and students living in poverty. When more teachers follow your brave example, this educational malpractice and student cognitive/emotional abuse will stop. May your letter go viral!

  38. Danielle Boudet says:

    Thank you for having the courage to take this stand against these destructive tests. I fully support your decision and hope that others will follow your lead in taking a stand against high-stakes tests such as these.

  39. Jennifer Solbach says:

    Very well said! I agree with you 100%. My children will not be subjected to this testing abuse. I will share your letter.

  40. Peggy you know that 52,000 BATs stand in solidarity with you and are here to support you across the nation. Hopefully your stand will inspire others to do the same. I have refused my son from taking state exams for 3 years now It was the best decision I ever made. We should support good educational practice and stand against educational practice that harms our children! You continue to be a warrior for children and their education! Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager, Badass Teachers Association, 52,000 strong on Facebook

  41. Dany Ferneau says:

    I am just curious–how much time have you actually spent reviewing PARCC test items? Because I have heard from Colorado educators that have been tasked with both piloting and reviewing PARCC that the test items a) get students to really think and process information–not just spit out memorized facts (see http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/Grade3-Patricia%27sReadingTime.pdf), and b) the tests are more representative of how students are learning in the classroom and the end of year tests feel less disconnected from that learning and more like an extension of it. And I am just wondering where the disconnect is between their interpretation and yours?

    • Terri says:

      What you have heard does not match what I’ve been hearing and what I saw during a presentation recently. Even if it is true, there is still simply too much testing. When I started teaching in Colorado twenty years ago, there were two days of standardized tests a year. We were able to get results soon enough to be useful, and the information was better than what I’ve seen in recent years. Since retirement I don’t miss the test anxiety and wasted class time due to excessive testing.

  42. Bobbi Fisher says:

    Your courageous stance will help bring joyful learning back into the classroom. Bobbi Fisher, retired elementary school teacher, author of Joyful Learning in Kindergarten.

  43. Jan Spohn says:

    Thank you , Peggy , for standing and speaking up for students in Colorado and elsewhere! I stand with you.

  44. Rosemary Pearce says:

    I sat in a dept. chair meeting today in which the teachers complained about all the testing students must endure (topic was midterm exams) and suggested we reduce that number. Admin then went on to suggest ways to have more students take more SAT II and ACT exams. There you go. I support your efforts completely. We have to #takeitback.

  45. Jeanne Ballou says:

    Eloquently and rationally stated. In almost 66 years of life, “Common Core” is by far the worst compilation of stuff thrown together in the dark of night to be used against our youngest, most vulnerable, and most needy children that I have ever seen. I am not against change done right; but I am vehemently opposed to change for its own sake, and worse when it’s to further profit the wealthy at the expense of our children’s future.

  46. Thank you for being so brave.

  47. Connie Crawford says:

    In solidarity.

  48. shannon says:

    Shannon MInnix

  49. Lisa Smith says:

    I am 100% in support of you! Tests should only be used for three purposes: to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses in order to provide an appropriate education (including supports or enrichment challenges), to identify how well students did/not learn what was taught in order to inform instruction, or for placement in particular programs. In the first two cases, the teacher needs to know the questions and results. In the third, the examiner needs the same information. Testing should never be so important that it stresses the students or forces teachers to take more than a bare minimum of time away from actually teaching. You have it right. Standing up against the PARCC test, other standardized tests, and mind-numbing test prep is keeping the needs of the students #1!

  50. Mike Harris says:

    You go, girl!!!!!!!!! Respect and Dignity!!

  51. Felicia says:

    Follow your conscience and do what is right for your kids. Common sense MUST prevail over Common Core and the national obsession with toxic standardized testing before the joy of learning is extinguished in an entire generation of our nation’s youth.

  52. Matt Prestbury says:

    I salute you and support you to the utmost. My children, as usual, will not be participating in any high stake standardized testing. It’s truly up to us a parents to fight this fight. It’s dangerous territory for teachers, which is of course why so few have the courage to take the stand you are taking. Parents unite and fight this fight! Let’s do it for our children’s futures!

  53. Darciann Samples says:

    Thank you for making such a bold statement against the testing mania that has destroyed public education. You are a true hero!

  54. Kim says:

    Thank you for your courage! You are an inspiration.

  55. Gus Morales says:

    Stay strong, Peggy Robertson. I stand with you!

  56. Dawn Sweeney says:

    I stand with you, and with my children. Solidarity from PA.

  57. Taremorya Kathryn Sullivan says:

    Thank you Peg for your courage to speak the truth and wisdom to know what is and what is not developmentally appropriate for our children.

  58. Kristin says:

    Every year I teach, the amount of testing increases. Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate. public schools are failing fast, not due to teachers as the media will have you buy, but due to corrupt policy makers.

  59. Perry says:

    As a mother of two DPS kids….thank you!

  60. Genesis V says:

    Brilliant and courageous work! I will be passing the word to my fellow counselors in NJ.

  61. Debi Howell says:

    Heartfelt and well said. If all teachers had your courage, this outrageous waste of student/teacher time and taxpayer dollars would go away.

  62. Janet Simon says:

    Thank you for your courageous stand!

  63. Janet Summit says:

    I applaud you. You are making the right stand, and I think that you are correct – this fight must be won by the parents. I have taken my own children out of the public school system completely, and have set up a private community school in our area precisely because of my great concerns about the issue of testing and standards that are totally unrealistic, and harmful to our kids. I vividly remember the day my then-7th-grader came home from school and said, “Mom, why didn’t you ever tell me I was stupid.” He struggled and struggled with trying to do better on tests – and finally decided that I’d just lied to him all along – that he was stupid, and hadn’t known it.

    Right then and there I knew something had to be done to salvage my son emotionally. The public school testing was harming his soul, and I wasn’t going to let that happen if I could prevent it.

  64. Emma Perez says:

    Thank you for your letter. Common core is not “common” but merely another way of corporatizing education in this country for profits, not knowledge, not enrichment. Time to fight back. Thank you again.

  65. Sally Thomas says:

    Thank you for your courage Peg. Not to mention the years of warrior work fighting for children and teacher and what is RIGHT!!!

  66. Rebecca Campbell says:

    Well said. The phrase “authentic learning” is so valuable. Thank you, wonderful teacher, for taking a risk for the children and the parents too. Sharing this.

  67. Theresa Silver says:

    Thank you, thank you! Let’s starve the beast.

  68. Valerie Olsen-Rittler says:

    Solidarity from Minneapolis, Peggy!

  69. Karen Rosa says:

    Now this is courage. Teacher solidarity in this action would end those useless tests. Thank you for your courage and for standing up for the children.

  70. Lisa Levine says:

    Peggy,

    Thank you so much for being truthful, brave and an inspiration. Your letter specifically mentions Colorado, but what’s happening there is happening in pretty much every other state in the country. And I live in NY, so I know first hand how awful CC is.

    I will pass your letter on and get the word out here in Albany.

    Lisa Levine

  71. Jennifer Fatone says:

    Thank you for taking a courageous stand!

  72. Robin says:

    Dear Peg, Thank you for your courageous stance on behalf of your students to “first do no harm.” Every teacher should take this Educratic Oath. This Maine BAT supports you and wishes you strength.

  73. Gail Bryant says:

    I am a just recently retired principal in New Mexico. You are right. The people are going to have to fight this in the voting booths. Parents need to Opt Out their children from all testing. Teachers know when their students are getting it, and they adjust. Common Core doesn’t allow for this. The children of this country are paying the price for the politics of a few. We have got to get control of our schools back. I know there are people here in New Mexico that are trying. Good for you for putting yourself out there for our students.

  74. Selena says:

    Thank you for your courage!!! I am mom and a teacher of 12 years (not currently working as a teacher) I am so afraid for our kids and I am so glad you are standing up for what’s right!

  75. Zuyin Govea says:

    We need all out teachers to approach children’s learning and potential like you. Please continue to stand strong and let us know how else we can continue to stand as one against mental imprisonment.

  76. Cassandra Kramer says:

    I stand with you Peggy. My kids are no longer part of that system of testing. They are happier and their overall grades have improved since you helped me opt them out. I will be forever grateful and have been helping as many parents as possible know that they too can opt out their children.

  77. Dawn Ullrey says:

    I am a grandmother whose grandchildren are being homeschooled. I am appalled at the Common Core standards and PARCC testing and what it will do to not only our children’s education but what it will do to our country. Thank you for standing up against this. I personally am doing what I can to stop this madness. We must elect legislators in the Colorado congress who will vote against Common Core. This is the only way we will get rid of it. Your ballots have probably arrived. Be careful of who you vote for.

  78. Laura says:

    Thank you for standing up for our kids!

  79. WJ says:

    I applaud your stand, and I have been vocal at my school. I am overwhelmed by the amount of instructional time that my students are losing because of the PARCC and CMAS testing. We are told to be positive and try to encourage students to test, so that we will not be penalized as a school for not reaching the 95% benchmark set by the state law. I watched students purposely bomb the test, knowing that we were wasting time, money, and precious learning time. Most teachers and administrators hate what is happening to education, but there is pressure (and punishment) for not following state law. Please, as you opt your kids out of the test, also make a call to our law makers and voice your opinion. A call to the principal is preaching to the choir.

  80. Sam says:

    The reason that American Education can’t compete with the rest of the world is because people like you. People like you so desperately cover up your own stupidity and refuse to work hard to improve yourself is the reason US needs so many immigrant computer programmers/engineers from other country, Our education system’s standard is too low, it’s pathetic….

  81. Leah Rice says:

    Both of my children, middle school and high school, will be opting out of the testing. Thank you for being a voice for the teachers and students.

  82. Sabdra Padilla says:

    I am with you on this. I admire you for standing for what’s right. I will not let my kids participate in testing.

  83. Becky says:

    Thank you for standing up for our kids! I am opting my son out of PARCC. Enough is enough!

  84. yasmin wasalaam says:

    Peggy I also stand with you I am in Denver and my children attend KIPP montbello college prep, I have opted my children out today!! I am trying to educate the parents in my school district which is composed of mostly latino families. My problem is the language barrier I wish I had someone that could translate for me so I could get the word out so we all could be united and educated. Thank you for standing up for the kids it means so much to parents like me. Also I am a student with UC Denver please use me in anyway you see fit to get the message out I will use any and all resources available to me!!

  85. Mandy P says:

    I support you Peggy! If there is something we can do an a state level, please keep folks updated. I would love to get this testing taken care of. I have kids who will be starting these assessments next year.

  1. September 23, 2014

    […] tests and against the privatization of public education. She blogs at pegwithpen.com as well as at http://www.corave.org, where a version of this post […]

  2. January 20, 2015

    […] There is also a financial strain: substitutes, snacks, and test administrators cost money. Some teachers have even, famously, refused to test their students, such as a Florida kindergarten teacher and a Colorado literacy coach. […]

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