CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

A Better PARCC/SBA Test Prep Program

You may recall the old SAT vocabulary lists. Dozens of test prep lists that promised to get you ready for the SAT because their creators had pored through and broken down dozens upon dozens of old SAT tests, and here they were– the 50 or 100 or 500 words that most commonly appeared on the test.

Of course you remember these lists, because they totally worked. While the SAT allegedly tested reasoning, mostly what all those analogies and other nifty word puzzles tested was your vocabulary, and having a list of the most likely vocabulary on the test ahead of time was a great way to make your studying more direct and efficient. Cheating…? Well, that’s quite a philosophical conundrum, isn’t it– if someone creates an artificial obstacle between you and a goal, and the obstacle is not only artificial, but rather unfair and designed mostly to serve their needs at your expense, is “cheating” even really a possibility? If the game is rigged and somebody else is forcing you to play it, do you have an ethical obligation to follow their rules to the letter?

But I digress.

The point is, Amplify is offering just that sort of test prep for the PARCC and SBA.

Amplify, you will recall, was going to be Rupert Murdoch’s big shot at hoovering up some of those sweet sweet public education tax dollars. Instead, it limped its way to being bought by Joel Klein and other big whoopdie doo education privateers who had been brought in to run the place. Their most spectacular disaster was the Los Angeles ipad fiasco, but mostly they’ve been a company of high-rolling education amateurs.

So they’ve been doing their homework, including poring through and breaking down old PARRC and SBA reading tests.

These new-generation tests have always pretended to be two impossible things. 1) A test that is impervious to test prep, so don’t even try, just go about regular educating stuff and we will accurately measure that. 2) A test of reading skills that are somehow divorced from any sort of content knowledge.

The second is a deeply impossible thing– divorcing reading from content is like divorcing kissing from touching. It can’t really be done, and so every reading test is inescapably a test of prior knowledge.

With that in mind, wouldn’t it be helpful to know what prior knowledge would be helpful? Sure it would– and the folks at Amplify know. They even have a nifty graphic:

There’s your top ten content areas–  US History, Folk Tales, Human Biology, Historical Fiction, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Classic Children’s Fiction, Immigration, Astronomy and Space, Engineering, Animals & Ecology. But not sports. This is what your K-5 students should be reading about to get ready for the test.

Oh, and Amplify wants you to know one other thing:

We also found that students who had studied our K-5 Core Knowledge Language Arts® (CKLA) curriculum would have prior knowledge relevant to more than 75% of passages reviewed on summative tests like PARCC and SBAC.

I’m sort of impressed by their honesty. No “CKLA provides for excellent development of language skills that will better prepare your students for college and career by meeting high standards etc etc blah blah blah.” Instead, just a plain and simple “Buy our program. It’s excellent test prep, because it teaches the content they’re likely to be tested on.”

It’s not quite selling an early peek at the test, so I suppose it’s not exactly cheating. It’s just not exactly education, either.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: A Better PARCC/SBA Test Prep Program