In a refreshing change of tone, the new chair of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Margaret McKenna, expressed concerns this week about the heavy testing load on students.
These concerns were echoed by several other BESE members, including labor representative Harneen Chernow and the new student representative, Donald Willyard. He told the board that students in grades 8-10 at his charter school spent the better part of the third week in September taking a “practice” MCAS test. Yes, they are already prepping for a test that won’t be administered for nine months.
This is not news to our members. During our Regional and Local Forums on Reclaiming Public Education we are hearing similar stories over and over again. The high-stakes testing mandated by the federal and state governments is leading to a cycle of pretesting, and pretesting the pretests, especially in low-income districts. This is taking valuable time away from teaching and is a good way to kill a love of learning.
Teachers and parents across the country are fighting back. FairTest released a reportdocumenting some of their victories. Can we fight back in the same way here? Share your ideas at a Local Forum if you haven’t already.
Speaking of victories, we are looking for one on November 4, when Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker square off in the governor’s race. Here’s just one of many differences we’ll be telling you about: Coakley supports ballot Question 4, which would provide workers with earned sick time, and Baker opposes it. This is a matter of fairness and public health.
There are currently over one million workers in Massachusetts who receive no paid sick leave benefit. That means they can’t stay home when they are sick or when they have to take care of a sick child without risking losing their income or job. Haven’t we all had to deal with sick children in our classrooms who would have been better off at home – for everyone’s sake – if the parents could have afforded to stay home with them?
Here’s another question of fairness: What if we created a system under which adjunct faculty weren’t so exploited that they qualify for public assistance? We recently posted an article on our MTA Facebook page with the alarming – but true – headline, Professors on food stamps: The shocking true story of academia in 2014. Forget minimum wage. Some adjunct professors say they’re making 50 cents an hour. Improving pay and benefits for adjunct faculty, and fighting the shift from full-time to part-time faculty in higher education, are high priorities for the MTA.
In solidarity, and in anticipation of many great things ahead,