TOWNSEND -- The North Middlesex Regional School Committee voted unanimously Monday to send a letter to the state expressing concerns about a new standardized test that will be piloted this spring.

Three schools in the district were selected to pilot the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC test, which could eventually replace MCAS testing.

PARCC is developing a series of nationwide assessments designed to line up with national Common Core standards, to determine students' preparedness for higher education or work after graduation.

The state is expected to decide in fall 2015 whether PARCC will replace MCAS after the two-year pilot program is finished.

Randomly selected classes at Ashby Elementary School, Hawthorne Brook Middle School and North Middlesex Regional High School will take the pilot tests from March 24 to April 11. Participating students will be in grades 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11.

Scores will not be reported, and most students will still be required to take MCAS testing.

Many on the School Committee expressed concerns about the test, including the logistics of administering it and its benefit to students.

Superintendent Joan Landers said the technological infrastructure is not in place in all schools in the district to administer the test, which is given online. As a result, students from Hawthorne Brook will be taking a paper version during the pilot program.


"We do not have the bandwidth in North Middlesex to do that," Landers said, citing the financial burden many districts could have to make the online test available in all schools.

Member Brian Edmonds said he was generally skeptical of standardized testing, and had seen a lot of concerns raised in the media about PARCC.

"I've noticed a lot of states pulling out, and for me as a School Committee member, that's concerning," Edmonds said.

Member Anne Adams agreed, saying that at a state workshop she attended last Saturday, many people expressed concerns about the test.

Adams said many people she talked to expressed worries about whether the test serves the right interests.

"It speaks to what was the real intent behind this educational reform. It seems like it could be more about the publishing companies that are involved and maybe less about the students and teachers involved," Adams said.

PARCC, which is timed, could also potentially cause anxiety among students, particularly those with special needs, Adams said.

"The fact that this is a timed test concerns me. I am concerned that the emotional well-being of the student wasn't factored in as much," she said.

Adams also questioned why a single test was being praised so highly in determining students' college and career readiness.

The letter will be drafted by Adams and Edmonds, and is expected to be reviewed by the entire committee before being sent to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in late January.

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