The realization of many teachers, parents and students that our classrooms are drowning in standardized tests has prompted a discussion that has moved beyond schools and school committees and has now prompted state education officials to address the issue.
Last week, in the first vote of its kind in Massachusetts, the Tewksbury Town Meeting voted 82-51 to reject PARCC testing (and the related Common Core standards). According to an article in the Lowell Sun, “Several residents spoke in support of [Ruth] Chou’s article, saying they were opposed to the high-pressure PARCC exam, the ‘controlling’ nature of the standards and the trouble with having standards decided at a state or federal level.”
Also last week, Boston Teachers Union members voted unanimously to endorse a resolution calling for:
- A moratorium on punitive uses of state-mandated standardized test scores, including designating schools level 4 and 5.
- Public hearings in schools around the state on the impact of these mandates and on better ways to improve education for all children, including the creation of a new accountability system that is diagnostic, not punitive.
- An end to new test mandates including the “district-determined measures.”
The overtesting issue came up at last month’s state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meeting. New Chair Margaret McKenna commented on the large number of school days (20 to 25, she said) lost to testing and test prep in some schools, according to a Patriot Ledgerarticle. “What I keep hearing is the districts keep saying it’s the state; the state keeps saying it’s the districts,” said McKenna. Earlier, Commissioner Mitchell Chester said in a letter to school districts that he planned to look into whether there is too much testing in our schools. “I’m committed to understanding the concerns about the amount of testing that is occurring in Massachusetts schools.”
Chester’s comment prompted CPS Board Member and Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick, in a powerful op-ed, to suggest Chester startreally listening to what students and teachers have to say on the issue. In her Worcester Telegramcolumn, Novick wrote, “He’s going to need to listen to students like Board of Education student representative Donald Willyard, who reported at the meeting that students at his school had already spent the better part of a week taking a practice test. He’ll need to listen to students as young as kindergartners who know that they dare not make noise at recess, or sing during music class, or applaud a classmate’s presentation during MCAS time.”