Thanks to New Bedford School Committee member Josh Amaral, we have some idea of (following up on my column last week) the degree to which Commissioner Chester is listening:
It took a bit over a month to discover: it turns out he's not really listening at all. He's "bringing some clarity" to the conversation.
The problem, of course, is that this isn't clarity at all. This is the same time-worn "we never said you had to do that," "districts make different choices," excuses that we've been hearing for years. Years!
The truth of the matter--and Mr. Amaral captures this perfectly in his point on writing prompts--is that if you craft a test a particular way, and if you hang consequences from student graduation to principal's jobs on that test, then yes, you are absolutely going to get test prep. It may look like kids who somehow don't know how to write anything other than a three or five paragraph essay; it may look like kids who expect that every problem is going to be multiple choice; it may look like charts that track precisely where each child is according to various expensive and time-consuming metrics. You will, however, have test prep and overtesting across the state.
These, however, are consequences that one is only going to hear about if one is LISTENING TO PEOPLE WHO ARE CLOSE TO KIDS, not to mention the kids themselves. This knee-jerk "we never said" is not listening, is not informed, and pushes us farther away from any solution to this problem.
We don't need the Commissioner's version of clarity. We don't need a study. We do need leadership that is in fact LISTENING to those in the field, in the classrooms, around kitchen tables, and in student desks every day.
And then acting accordingly.