What the PARCC Taught Me

The End of Days is upon us. The Rapture. Judgment Day. Also known as PARCC testing time.

If you have children of school age anywhere around these parts, you know this WTF-of-a-standardized-computer-based-test is all anyone has been talking about this whole school year. It's even made us forget about lockdowns.

The three children I live with have taken to call it the CCRAP test, even though they have to cough up a dollar every time they say that. Worth every penny, in their books.

I myself have brought up PARCC testing at the dinner table, in the school parking lot, even to total strangers in public restrooms. The whole ‘Should We/Shouldn’t We Let Our Kids Take It’ debate has monopolized my ear space, my Facebook wall, and that part of my brain that thinks, ‘Damn, there are so many decisions to worry about as a parent, is this one more way I could screw them up too?’

Arguments to opt-out of taking the PARCC have been quite compelling:

Test prep has taken away time from real learning...The PARCC was implemented too quickly with no time to get the kinks out, and we’re setting kids up to fail…Standardized measurements don’t evaluate the child as a whole, the skills they need to test well have little real world applicability…

And the argument that hits home the most for a right-brainer like me: This type of learning kills creativity.

Still, after quizzing everyone I know and doing my own homework, I decided I would let my kids take the test anyway. Partly because I felt like so much class time was spent getting them PARCC ready that it would be silly to skip it. Partly because my husband is Pro-PARCC and all for anything that promises to propel our education system into the twenty-first century. And partly, truth be told, because it is just so much easier to Do Nothing.

Lately, Doing Nothing is #1 on my to-do list. It’s been on there for at least a year. But in between herding kids, writing books, trying to keep fit and simultaneously hold down both a business and household, well, Doing Nothing often gets trumped by Doing Something.

So, I let the scores fall where they may and sent my kids off to school well-rested and well fed, to fend for themselves on the dreaded PARCC. And their consensus? It’s been totally fine. After school, they’ve compared notes on the funny essays they had to write, the math problems they failed to figure out, and which kid brought in what snack to keep their strength up as they all got through it.

I’ll say this for the PARCC. It’s taught my kids how to persevere in the face of adversity. But it has taught me something too…

Since it’s a testing week, my kids have not had one iota of homework. They’ve been free to play, chill and be carefree, and its effect on them has been much like a dog who gets to hang his head out the window of a moving car. Every afternoon feels like summer vacation.

For the first time in a very long time, they’ve been able to experience the magic of Doing Nothing. And suddenly, I understand what that New York City principal was going for when she declared that her school would stop giving homework.

In case you’ve been too ensconced in the PARCC debate to read about this one, let me give you the Cliff Notes. A growing number of studies are claiming that homework is not effective as an instructional tool, and that it does nothing to improve children’s grades. One researcher even makes the case that teachers should only assign home-based activities that are shown to be beneficial, such as cooking or performing experiments in the kitchen, doing crossword puzzles or playing games as a family, watching good TV shows or reading.

Some of the parents at PS 116 in NYC are up in arms over their school’s new No Homework policy, fearing their kids will fall behind and fail to be competitive, but Principal HSU counters that letting kids spend their freed up time reading, playing outside or doing activities they enjoy is critical to their social, emotional, physical, artistic, and yes, intellectual development. In other words, it VALUES THE WHOLE CHILD, something critics claim standardized testing fails to do.

So that’s the cause I’d like to rally behind now. I mentioned this to a friend who tried to call me out on it, saying, Sure, that would be easier FOR YOU, right?

Not true. Homework is not a struggle in my house. Little people come home, grab a snack and start getting ‘er done. One does it more quickly than the others, who spread their work out painfully over the course of three hours, taking ten minute breaks every five minutes to disappear into the playroom. But hey, whatever the process, the end result is that assignments get handed in on time without my intervention. So that’s not why I’m on the No Homework bandwagon.

Here is why. This past week has been such a gift. After school I’ve been blessed with happy, stress-free kids who have time to shoot baskets, play tag, draw pictures, bake cookies, jump on the trampoline, hang with their mom, and even, bless their hearts, be bored. And isn’t boredom the birth mother of creativity?

I'll take a double helping of that, please. And I don’t need research to show me how this benefits my children. I’m seeing it firsthand.

Won’t you join me on my new crusade? Can we band together to Opt-out of homework? Someone needs to start a Facebook page, circulate some petitions, or I don’t know, Do Something. I’d get on that myself, but it’s starting to sound a lot like homework, and like I said, I am now against that.

I’ve got to practice what I preach. Here’s to Doing Nothing. For us, and our kids.

If you must Do Something, why not pre-order my novel?  It's fun, funny, and way easier to read than those PARCC text passages. 

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  1. Can I just stay a preschool mom forever?

    1. Anna, the good news is, there will come a day when you no longer have to bake cupcakes. Or maybe that's bad news, if you like baking cupcakes. PS. The other bennie of grade school? All day daycare! Think of all the things we will write.

  2. AMEN!!! As a teacher and a mom, I HATE homework!!! I give my students the bare minimum I have to without getting in trouble myself. I firmly believe that kids benefit more from just being kids...running, playing, creating, being bored, than any worksheet or project. I also hate reading logs and/or responses....just let them read because they are engrossed in a story!


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