Saturday, November 28, 2015

Massachusetts’s Common Core Path - The New York Times

Massachusetts’s Common Core Path - The New York Times:

Massachusetts’s Common Core Path

To the Editor:
Rejecting Test, Massachusetts Shifts Its Model” (front page, Nov. 22) describes the challenge of comparing children’s progress, state to state, and state and country to country, as “one of the most stubborn problems in education.”
I am the proud parent of a child in a Massachusetts public school, and I believe that our schools face many pressing problems. In a world that is rapidly changing (and overheating), our children will need all the creativity and critical thinking — not to mention kindness, compassion and common decency — they can get. In a society where many children experience profound instability, schools are a lifeline.
I could easily list 500 priorities for my child’s education. But the question of how Massachusetts test scores compare with test scores in Minnesota, in Mississippi, anywhere, wouldn’t make the cut.
Somehow, though, this need to compare is so all-consuming that it has reshaped children’s entire school experiences. Science and social studies have been squeezed to the margins of the curriculum, and the arts sometimes disappear entirely. In gym, math and vocabulary exercises take the place of physical exercise.
The central promise of the national tests and the Common Core, of high standards for all, certainly sounds appealing. The results have been anything but.
Whatever the intentions, the implementation of Parcc (the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and the Common Core have done real harm. As states begin to move in another direction, I hope that the voices of parents and teachers will be heard.
Cambridge, Mass.
To the Editor:
As the state elementary and secondary education commissioner, I would like to make clear that neither my recommendation to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education nor the board’s Nov. 17 voterejected Parcc or the Common Core.
In fact, both embraced Parcc as part of the future of statewide assessment in Massachusetts. As the article eventually mentions, Massachusetts will remain part of the Parcc consortium and will include Parcc content in our updated statewide assessment.
Massachusetts educators and assessment experts spent years helping to build Parcc, and Massachusetts students will continue to benefit from that work. The board’s 8-to-3 vote enables us to combine Parcc with parts of our existing state assessment, known as MCAS, and make any state-specific adjustments we require.
Participation in Parcc is not an all-or-nothing decision. It will be up to individual member states to decide how to participate in the consortium in the manner that best suits each of them.
Malden, Mass.
To the Editor:
I am a Massachusetts public-school teacher, and I take issue with the way your article characterizes the opposition to Parcc in my state.
First, the article dramatically underestimates the breadth and depth of educator opposition, which was evident in the testimony of hundreds of educators at hearings throughout the state this year, and in the number of teacher, administrator and parent organizations formally opposing the test and supporting legislation that would impose a three-year moratorium on the high stakes associated with standardized tests in Massachusetts.
Second, the article attributes our objections to concerns about the role of tests in teachers’ performance evaluation, but evaluation is secondary to a host of other concerns about this test: We find the Parcc test items ludicrously confusing, we don’t want a for-profit entity assessing our children, we think the time and number of personnel required to administer Parcc is absurd, and we have grave concerns about how to fund the technology requirements of this new testing system.
Cambridge, Mass.
To the Editor:
It is important to distinguish between the Common Core State Standards and tests tied to the Common Core.
The standards and the tests are not one and the same, though the news media, and thus the public, seldom make the distinction. The Common Massachusetts’s Common Core Path - The New York Times: