As if the Commonwealth isn’t fraught with enough accountability issues to occupy its lawmakers and other Beacon Hill pols, many have chosen to enter a fray prematurely and consequently ill-founded.
We refer to the attack on the newly introduced and trial Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC), which is to be considered as the alternative to the MCAS as an assessment of student learning in our public schools.
Some of our lawmakers (by the way, they won’t make the ultimate testing decision) have become outspoken in their criticism of PARCC and by their agreement with a sadly misguided End Common Core group that has launched a ballot initiative to stop Common Core in Massachusetts.
Common Core is the new set of educational standards that were developed in the past eight years in a grand example of 26 states through the National Governors Council and respective educational commissioners collaborating on a uniform set of learning goals relevant to the 21st century. The CC is based on the best that each state had to offer and includes input from a broad spectrum of research, educators, business alliances and international resources.
The aforementioned PARCC was developed by a national commission led by our progressive and highly respected educational commissioner, Mitchell Chester, as the measure of the common core standards; the MCAS was believed to be not comprehensive enough to evaluate the new goals.
The usual cry of the naysayers is that we had (still have under consideration) an assessment tool (MCAS) that was most successful in that our students performed so well in comparison to other states’ testing results. But the MCAS is 17 years old and should be at least revised to coincide with necessary and current school curriculum expectations and needs.
To oppose the Common Core curriculum standards is to ignore the current documented poor preparation of our students for college and work despite high scores in subject matter (content-based) testing. Refer to the analysis of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education that found the PARCC “as a better identifier of students who are college- and career-ready” and the Common Core in line with criteria for the working world.
To oppose the Common Core is to rebuff the earnest labor and contributions of a BIPARTISAN consortium of our nation’s governors and educational officials since 2007. They all agree that the new school reform standards and assessment is a work in progress. It’s certainly too early for anyone to reject the initiative.
One area that this writer among so many other educators agrees needs some serious attention is the testing calendar, regardless of which test is agreed upon. There is concurrence that testing and its preparation time detracts excessively from instructional time and must be weighed for its consequences.
Let it be known in all circumstances and discussion that we are and have been superbly led by the pro-active and standards-based vision of Commissioner Chester. Some of the anti-PARCC spokespeople’s criticism borders on the absurd as it points to Chester serving as the chairperson of the national PARCC governing board as a detriment.
One legislator had the audacity to suggest the Commissioner step down indicating that “he is doing a disservice” to our state insinuating his objectivity will be clouded by his role. Shouldn’t we prefer to look at it as having an architect or painter available to speak to his or her new design or masterpiece? The final vote will be by the people the Commissioner serves — the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. They promise free and open deliberation on the matter. The DESE has noted that Chester is still undecided on his final recommendation and through their recent performance evaluation of the Commissioner have underscored their faith and trust in his role.
Our legislators would be of better service to allow the education people to finish their work and market a more definitive and descriptive plan. Supporting a ballot question without a substantive and clear issue is ridiculous as is asking the architect to step down before his structure is complete.
If education is of such concern to our government representatives, such issues as a more equitable school aid formula, funding of pre-school for all, a provision for more mental health services in K-12 schools, easier access to community college programs and a school safety officer and additional security in our schools would significantly support the public school education mission and fall more within their domain.
Parents must visit the excellent DESE website on the Common Core and PARCC to be accurately informed of the proposals of the Common Core target goals and skills.
Be mindful finally that the Common Core is an established and integral set of subject matter performance standards, articulated skills and other competencies that will best serve our students for college and career success. The schools will remain responsible for shaping the curriculum to attain these standards and determining the methodology for the teaching and learning in the classroom. Contrary to what some believe and profess, there is no loss of autonomy within our schools.
Let’s not take the issue to another level (ballot initiative) until our entrusted state educational people have fully explored their options after the last eight years of deliberation and research. They have been most diligent and deserve the opportunity to present their recommendations.