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The Answer Sheet

6th Graders Seeking Payment for Taking Common Core Field Tests

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Some sixth grade students in Massachusetts who spent hours over several days taking practice versions of newly developed Common Core tests decided that they should be paid for their work and are seeking payment for serving as “guinea pigs.”

The Ipswich Chronicle reported in this story about what happened after students at Ipswich Middle School  field tested new exams written the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of the two multi-state consortia developing new Core exams with $360 million in federal funds. PARCC and the other multi-state consortia, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, are now field testing their Core-aligned exams,  with millions of  students taking part, for use in the next school. Public school students often “field test” questions on standardized exams created by testing companies that then sell the exams to states. In this case, states will pay PARCC and Smarter Balanced for use of the tests that students are field testing.

The story quotes  teacher Alan Laroche, whose A and B period math classes were randomly chosen to take the field tests. Laroche said that some of the 37 students who took the exams on May 19 heard a teacher joke that the kids should be paid for their time and they asked him if it was really possible. He was quoted as saying:

“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. 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.”

One student, Brett Beaulieu, drafted a letter asking that he and his classmates be paid for their time and even calculated how much they should receive if they were paid the minimum wage for 330 minutes of testing : a total of $1,628 to be divided among the kids. He also calculated how many school supplies that sum could buy: 8,689 Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils, for example. He was quoted as saying:

“I thought it was unfair that we weren’t paid for anything and we didn’t volunteer for anything. It was as if we said, ‘Oh, we can do it for free.’”

He signed the letter, got more than 50 other people to sign as well, most of them students but also Principal David Fabrizio, Assistant Principal Kathy McMahon and Laroche, who mailed the letter — with return requests — to PARCC officials as well as to Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. No word yet of a response. Stay tuned.

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Valerie Strauss

Valerie Strauss writes the Answer Sheet blog for the Washington Post.

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