Friday, September 5, 2014

Let's clear a couple of things up about the PARCC/MCAS bit

I keep seeing some misconceptions circulating around these PARCC/MCAS votes (like the one we took last night in Worcester) that it would be good to clear up.
I've seen the idea circulating that a vote to use MCAS this year is a vote to stay with the same paper-and-pencil test that we've been doing for over a decade. That isn't the case. When I said last night that there's a strong likelihood of the PARCC being adopted, I'm going by what I've seen in Board of Ed meetings, but, even if that doesn't happen, we're not going to be staying with the same paper-and-pencil test. Whatever the test is in 2016 and forward (or whenever they manage to roll it out) isn't going to be the same test.
I've also seen this notion that somehow we're avoiding the Common Core by staying with the MCAS. Not the case. The MCAS itself is now aligned with the Common Core; it has to be, as the Massachusetts Board of Ed adopted the Common Core in 2011, what we are teaching in classrooms now is Common Core-aligned, and thus the state test was changed to fit that. Whichever test we give kids is already Common Core-aligned. So if your concern is with the Common Core, neither test avoids it.
I'll add again what I said last night: this is the wrong question. The MCAS is not a good test, and, after twenty years of testifying and otherwise fighting against it, I'm certainly not going to vote to stay with it. The PARCC isn't an improvement in how it assesses kids. This is a missed opportunity to look at how we check on how kids are learning. We already have an item in Accountability to look at which standardized assessments we give kids and how much time that takes; I'm going to continue to push us in Worcester to stop our dependance on them and move towards more authentic assessments.
And if your concern is with Common Core, PARCC, standardized assessments as a graduation requirement and such, I'd urge you to start joining me at Board of Ed meetings if you're able.

Oh, and the Board of Ed is appointed by the Governor. The Democrats have a primary next week, and the election is in November. I'd recommend taking a close look at the candidates' positions on these issues, because it does fall under their purview.

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