I just had a conversation with my partner, who told me that at her private high school, she never took a standardized test outside of the college prep ones: PSAT, SAT, and ACT. The private school was accountable to parents, who expected their children to gain a higher likelihood of gaining entry to exclusive colleges and universities, like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Northwestern, and so on.
According to her, more than half the students did gain entry to those kinds of institutions, and those who did not went to institutions reputable at the local instead of national level. The students never had classes numbering larger than seventeen, with emphases beyond the limited scope of math and reading (i.e. the _Truman Show_-like wall of PARCC), including visual arts, performance, sciences, and humanities, among other self-selected activities for budding adults.
Students learned civic engagement to boot. I don't see a way for students to learn civic engagement vis a vis Pearson in any other way than to refuse the tests or undercut their "value" by publicizing the questions via the internet.
We often hear that "throwing more money at the problem will not do any good." Yet we are throwing money at Pearson instead of helping young people become self-directed critical thinkers led by respected professional educators.
There are no shortcuts to real education; I have yet to see a corporate executive or education "reformer" do for their own children anything other than the simple private school education my partner described to me. What they offer are techno-futuristic rhetoric and nostrums that somehow enrich their friends.
What is the point of all that testing in public schools? At face value, the tests would appear to keep teachers and administrators accountable to make student learning happen. The "test," however, is by its nature a penalty if the content comes as a surprise -- and for students the tests must feel like punishment.
While the CCSS and PARCC probably come from people with the best intentions, it's obvious that these policy measures are motivated by a lack of trust in educators; after all, educators were absent from the creation of both.
Ultimately the solution to the problem of American education is unimaginable to most of us, but which is so simple (which John Rawls describes). If we want all the children to do their best, and to not gain unfair advantages or suffer disadvantages, all the children need to get the same resources, and not do better or worse merely by the lottery of choosing the right or wrong parents.
As in all things, the means become the ends, and in the case of standardized testing, we see just how unequal our society has become. Genuine education for me and mine; mind-numbing exams for thee and thine.