Log In

Daily Kos

Will Education Secretary Arne Duncan respond to the sixth-graders' petition?
Sixth-graders bill education officials for time spent as standardized test guinea pigs
After students in two sixth-grade math classes spent a week's worth of class time field-testing a new standardized test, they're demanding payment for their time. The Ipswich, Massachusetts, students have sent a letter to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone, and the group developing the test, asking for that payment.

The students were randomly chosen to try out the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test. That meant spending 150 minutes in March and 180 minutes in May taking a trial test rather than being taught math. After hearing another teacher joke that they should be paid for that time, students approached their math teacher, Alan Laroche:

"The kids proceeded to tell me that PARCC is going to be making money from the test, so they should get paid as guinea pigs for helping them out in creating this test," said Laroche. "So I said, ‘OK, if that’s the case and you guys feel strongly then there are venues and things you can do to voice your opinion, and one would be to write a letter and have some support behind that letter with petition." [...]

"I thought it was unfair that we weren’t paid for anything and we didn’t volunteer for anything," said [student Brett] Beaulieu. "It was as if we said, ‘Oh we can do it for free.’"

Beaulieu used his math skills in the letter, determining that the two classes would collectively earn $1,628 at minimum wage for their 330 minutes of work. He then went on to figure out how many school supplies that amount could buy: 22 new Big Ideas MATH Common Core Student Edition Green textbooks or 8,689 Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils.

"Even better, this could buy our school 175,000 sheets of 8 ½" by 11" paper, and 270 TI-108 calculators," Beaulieu wrote.

Students and administrators signed on to a petition, and Laroche sent the request off to Duncan, Malone, and PARCC. They're waiting for a response.

These kids are effectively drawing attention to the amount of time students are spending on testing; that this test was just a trial compounds the injury of 330 minutes out of two months of school being spent on testing. And the call for pencils, paper, or calculators as payment for the time spent taking the test highlights how, as money has been poured into testing, schools have often been starved of the basic supplies of education, with teachers forced to spend significant amounts of their salaries on things needed in the classroom.

It'll be interesting to see if the students get a meaningful response.