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Friday, July 10, 2015

Let's Keep PARCC

I read Joanna Weiss's Op-Ed, How to Save PARCC?, this morning and I was struck by this quote by Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts' commissioner of K-12 schools, "If kids can read well, if they're in a strong literacy program, they're going to do fine on a state literacy test. If they're in a strong math program, they're going to do fine on a state math test." I agree.

As a fan of streamlined standardized testing that is cost and time efficient, I believe we should stick with the PARCC test rather than backtrack to MCAS, and I believe we should manage this piece of the educational landscape with care and attention.

Why do I believe we should keep PARCC?

First, it's computerized. A computerized test, in the end, is more forward thinking and facile. Hopefully the State will save some money by using PARCC and then use that money to fund solid technology and infrastructure for every school in the State.

Next, PARCC aligns to the Common Core. I favor the way the Common Core provides a knowledge, concept, skill framework for a meaningful, child-centered educational program. Without a solid framework, it is difficult to teach children well, and if the Common Core Standards are implemented well they provide a terrific guide to a wonderful education.

Also, before any standardized testing, students were falling through the cracks. Children who couldn't read or succeed at math were often passed along with little attention or care. Now these students get more attention. I know that students are still falling through the cracks, and there's more to do. In that respect, I am in favor of the recently proposed amendments outlined below:
  • The Kirk, Reed, Baldwin, Brown Opportunity Dashboard of Core Resources Amendment would require states to track multiple indicators—beyond test scores—and use this data to identify resource gaps, and work with districts to develop plans to address these gaps.
  • The Reed, Bennet Family Engagement Amendment seeks to promote and strengthen meaningful family engagement policies and programs at the national, state, and local levels to ensure that all students are on track for college and careers.
  • The Brown Full-Service Community Schools Amendment would expand the full-service community schools model—which integrates educational, developmental, family, health, and other services through community-based organizations and public-private partnerships—to schools across the country.
Massachusetts' leaders, unions, schools, families, students, and educators have been doing a great job in education. We are all proud of the fine progress we've made. Taking PARCC off the table would be a back step. Managing our use of PARCC as one of many tools to assess and inform education is the way to go. I appreciate the fact that Weiss has brought this issue to the public via her opinion piece. Massachusetts' teachers are change-weary. It's time now to stick with the path created by solidifying and deepening the teaching and learning initiatives currently in place, initiatives that include the new Massachusetts' Teacher Evaluation system, RETELL, Common Core Standards, PARCC, policies related to bullying and student discipline, upcoming science standards decisions, and as I expect, new social studies standards that will follow.