TOWNSEND -- The North Middlesex Regional School Committee voted 8-0-1 Monday to administer the MCAS exam next year, instead of implementing pilot testing for the new PARCC exam.
School Committee member Will Hackler abstained from the vote.
Superintendent Joan Landers recommended sticking with MCAS because of some of the problems the pilot testing would pose to the district.
"I am recommending that the district continue to use MCAS for 2015 based on the fact that we have no definitive answers on some of these questions, potential large scale technological implementation issues. It's an unfunded mandate, and I really feel, and others do too, we've had so many initiatives, so many changes that we really need to slow down," Landers said.
"It's about quality-versus-quantity of changes we make and I really feel strongly that we're moving in a positive direction in our classrooms. I want to keep that momentum and really prepare our students and staff for the next generation assessment tests," Landers said.
Districts were given a choice of whether to stick with MCAS testing or administer the new PARCC texts for the upcoming school year. Those who made a decision by June 30 were guaranteed their chosen exam.
Landers ran through a list of pros and cons of both exams before announcing her recommendation. She said PARCC is fully aligned with the new Common Core standards, and there would be no negative affects on the school's rating from PARCC test results for the 2014-2015 school year.
However, she also said that the computerized PARCC test could pose technological implementation issues for the district.
She said MCAS is comfortable for students, is known to be of high quality and will keep consistency to help measure student progress. MCAS, however, is not fully aligned with Common Core standards.
In February, the school committee sent a letter to the state raising concerns about the test's implementation and impact on students.
Committee member Brian Edmonds said he supported the superintendent's recommendation in large part because of those lingering questions.
"The questions that we did put down on paper, I have not seen any answers to any of that," Edmonds said.
Committee member Anne Adams said, "I am not so sure that common core is broadly accepted, not within this state necessarily, and not across the country," Adams said.
She said the most important thing is that all committee members, as well as parents, educate themselves on the issue.
"This is the biggest reform movement in education in our generation and we would be negligent if we did not pay attention to it and do our research on it," Adams said on the Common Core standards.
Open Meeting Law violation alleged
Board members addressed an open meeting law violation complaint that was filed earlier this month.
The complaint was filed by Pepperell resident Douglas Babineau, who claimed that the committee violated open meeting law on May 27 by voting on a high school bell schedule change for the 2014-2015 school year. The agenda had said that the change was being voted on for the 2015-2016 school year, but committee members voted to implement it earlier.
Committee Chairman Susan Robbins said the school district's attorney had seen no violation of the open meeting law, and was submitting a letter to the Attorney General's office stating so.
Committee member Robert Templeton said the committee takes great efforts to be as open as possible. He asked that those with complaints talk to the school committee to try to resolve them.
"When we have to get lawyers involved and everyone else, all that does is take money away from students and give it to lawyers," Templeton said.
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