What the PARK is, and What the PARCC Will Never Be: A Slice of Life

Monday, March 9, 2015

Writing teachers need to write themselves.
I am participating in the Slice of Life 2015 Challenge, 
where I attempt to write stories and narratives about moments in my life.
I apologize if this blog post veers off the informative "literacy lens" I usually write through.
This month I am pretending to be a writer, for my students' benefit (and my own).
Writers write. 

I am not sure why it makes me so angry that park and PARCC sound the same, but it does.

We are park hoppers.  In the summer, we will drive almost an hour sometimes to try a new park out.

Watching my son and daughter slide down a twisty slide, arms up, screaming in happiness, and then racing back up to the top to do it again... 
The park is joy.

Seeing my son, who once saw an OT for poor core strength, climb the rope ladder all by himself for the first time...
The park is strength.

Watching my daughter fall down while trying to climb the stepping stones, brush herself off, and do it again...
The park is a learning opportunity.

Noticing that my children have yet again met some new friends to play with...
The park is conversation, with speaking and listening.

Observing my son try to climb the rock wall, pause and get his ground, and continue on...
The park is challenge within their limits.

Wiping the tears on his face as we turn to go home, and seeing my daughter wave and say "Goodbye, park!"...
The park is a positive experience.

Today, I choose to focus on the park.  Not the PARCC that will consume our week at Hiawatha starting tomorrow.  No, the actual park.  The REAL park.  

The PARCC (and any standardized test, for that matter) is none of the above.  
It is time we take the word park back, before our children associate it with testing rather than childhood. 

OK, just to be clear...
I am not saying that we boycott the state testing or anything crazy like that.  I think we just have to take it, and move on.  BUT the teaching that occurs every day in our school is phenomenal, and that is ultimately what matters.  We do our best every day to make sure our students get what they need.  And, in many cases, things like play and recess get cut out.  So perhaps I am just asking that we consider that as we spend so much time preparing for a single test.  Perhaps some of that time can be given back to our students to be kids, because the instruction we give them is targeted and timely and thoughtful.  Less is more, sometimes.  

I spent my entire school life being tested.  The PARCC is just the latest version.  The ISAT, the California Achievement, and the Iowa Basic Skills are all the same.  A test that just measures part of what our kids can do, brings results after the year is over, and stops instruction in the process.  The format of the PARCC is new, but the concept is not.

But, consider this...  
What if we gave our students less of things like the PARCC, but gave them more time at the PARK?  

I, for one, would be happier.  I love a good slide.  


  1. I love your format for taking on a serious issue in a way that is serious, but not overly pedantic! Fun way to think about opinion writing!! (And, me too!!)

  2. LEAH!!! (I'm using caps on purpose!) You are a beautiful writer!!!! I *love* this post! and I think I'm a little more out there than you, because if it were up to me, we'd just do away with all of it - take the international benchmarking assessment when we have to, and go about our days doing that phenomenal teaching you make light of. Love your creative comparisons, love your ideas and your voice about the profession we love so dearly, love it all. Thank you for writing this!

  3. We have the SBAC in CT. Smarter Balanced sounded like a butter to us--for a while, that is, before it became so real. Today and two other days last week, we did the SBAC practice portions of the test. We have NWEA three times a year too. OVER testing is putting me OVER the top! Honestly, I feel the beauty in teaching slipping away from my grasp. The truth--educational testing companies are putting enormous sums of money into lobbying, and this is what we the lambs, are being forced to do. (Please pardon me if I've over-politicized...I just feel we have to start talking truth.) Thank you for your beautiful writing! Your kids are lucky to have you!

  4. Your ending is perfection. I also love the whole beginning structure. We started PARCC today and it was an adventure. The kids handled it better than some of the grown ups. :-)

  5. Love the analogy. I'm going to share this with some friends. Thanks for writing and sharing.

  6. This is amazing, Leah! So happy to call you my colleague! Favorite line - challenge within their limits :)

  7. Personally, I love the swings.
    Fantastic! Thanks for writing this!