Elizabeth Blaine is a very smart 10-year-old fourth grader in Montclair Public Schools in New Jersey. She attended a Montclair School Board meeting on Monday night and sat for hours listening to the adults talk before giving testimony (see video below) about a proposed policy to allow parents to opt out their children from taking the Common Core test known as PARCC (for Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) when it is given later this school year. The policy (see text below) had its first reading at the meeting and will be voted on at a later board meeting.

Elizabeth’s mother is Sarah Blaine, a former teacher and lawyer who has written several popular pieces on this blog, including “You think you know teachers do. Right? Wrong.” Elizabeth and her family recently visited Washington D.C. and I had an opportunity to meet with Elizabeth and discuss her views on school, learning and standardized testing.

Elizabeth wrote the following about her experiences with the PARCC, and  she decided to present it to the Montclair School Board, after which she received hearty applause. Her mother said that Elizabeth wrote the entire thing herself and the only thing she did to help was insert a bracketed explanation of one of the paragraphs, fix a few typos and explain how to handle nested quotation marks. Sarah Blaine said the words and voice are Elizabeth’s, who described some of the same issues she discusses in the piece to me when we met.

Here’s what Elizabeth Blaine wrote and said to the board. The video is below if you want to watch:

I love to read. I love to write. I love to do math. But I don’t love the PARCC. Why? Because it stinks.
For example, I took a EOY (end of the year) practice test for math in preparation for the PARCC. On the practice test there was adding, multiplying, and subtracting fractions, long division, and geometry. All of these things we have not learned (or even started learning yet). And we are supposed to know these concepts mentally by the end of the year!
I also don’t like the PARCC because it is all on computers.
On the test we will have to type full essays in a time limit, when most of us have not typed ever before! We might have taken a technology class, but we are not required to. Why couldn’t they make the test on paper? Also, my tech teacher told us that if, during the test, we click out we’re out.
[Note from Sarah Blaine: The technology teacher told the class that if any of them accidentally click outside of the testing window on the computer during the PARCC exam, then the computer will lock the child out of the rest of that day’s testing session.]
Another thing that I don’t like is that we have lost six periods due to PARCC preparation. The preparation is for the technology on the test. The technology includes things like using a drag and drop ruler, a drag and drop protractor, drop-down windows, and scroll bars that only move certain mini windows only. And, there is this part (on some questions) where you make your own equation to show your work. That’s good, right? Yeah, but to make the equation it’s very complicated and hard.
So the math practice test stinks, what’s next? Why, the ELA test of course. On the ELA test there are some very confusing and extremely hard questions. For example, one of the essay questions was:
“Identify a theme in ‘Just Like Home’ and a theme in ‘Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.’ Write an essay that explains how the theme of the story is shown through the characters and how the theme of the poem is shown through the speaker. Include specific details from the story and the poem to support your essay.”
This is crazy! I am one of the most gifted students in my grade (or so my mom says) and I have not even the slightest clue as to what this means.
Also, on the ELA test there is a video, a Maya Angelou poem, and two stories. Along with that, there are questions to go with the poem and two stories. I had no idea what any of the questions to do with the poem meant and I didn’t understand the poem itself either. The questions for the first story were simple enough, but were terribly worded. The second story’s questions were about the same.
Now you know about the questions and technology on the PARCC. I am glad my mom and dad are letting me opt out, because I don’t want to deal with this nonsense, as I stated before. I agree with the policy being voted on tonight and hope that it passes through.
Thank you.

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