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Worcester Teachers Union Decry Public School Testing Decision

Monday, September 22, 2014

 

Worcester’s teachers union – the Educational Association of Worcester – has once again spoken out against PARCC testing taking place in the Worcester Public Schools, not supporting the Worcester School Committee’s vote to have some schools take PARCC testing in the upcoming school year.

In addition to standing by a vote of no confidence in PARCC testing, EAW is calling for a three-year pause on implementing it in the Worcester Public School District, calling for a reassessment on all high-stakes testing.

How do you measure progress with the test? It’s a joke; you should really be picking one or the other,” said Len Zalauskas, President of EAW. “We need to take a pause on PARCC testing. There also needs to be a lot more input from parents, community members, and teachers, especially teachers. Everyone wants to tell the teachers how things should be done but the people who are making these decisions are not teachers; they shouldn’t be telling teachers how to do their job.”

The Worcester School Committee recently voted to follow the administrations recommendation to split up the district, with some schools trying the new PARCC test, and others sticking with MCAS. Of the 39 schools in Worcester that serve grades 3-8, 16 of the schools will be taking MCAS while 23 school will be taking PARCC testing – which aligned with the Common Core – next year. Of the 23 schools taking PARCC, 18 will be taking a paper-based test while the other five will be taking an electronic version.

Problems with PARCC

EAW is upset that Worcester and the rest of the state is moving forward with PARCC because it is still a relatively new test in which there is no way to compare to the old test: MCAS.

Additionally, the jury is still out as to whether or not schools are ready for PARCC testing. According to statistics provided by the EAW, 72-percent of schools need more devices to test all students, and 50-percent of teachers said that the training for PARCC was inadequate.

“Common Core Forum supports the EAW's decision to put a pause on PARCC and also re-evaluate high stakes testing in Massachusetts,” said Donna Colorio, Founder of the Common Core Forum. “Worcester students, parents and teachers deserve a voice in the democratic process of the education of their child. The Worcester School Committee’s vote to support the superintendent’s recommendation to adopt PARCC in 23 schools was a direct disregard for the parents of Worcester.”

More PARCC Testing Needed

While the pilot test this past school semester was not without its hiccups that is to be expected with a brand new test.

According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, PARCC so far has been the more popular of the two tests, with 59-percent of the 303 decided school districts choosing PARCC. The department also says that teachers have been included in the process of implanting PARCC statewide.

“The point of the spring 2014 field tests was to test the test: which questions work, which don’t, what sorts of problems come up with technology or administering the test, whether students should all take the tests live online or have the district download the tests ahead of time, etc.,” said Jacqueline Reis, the Media Relations Coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in an email. “Spring 2015 will be an actual administration of the test in the districts that choose to use it, and parents, schools, districts and the state will all receive copies of scores, just as they would in a normal MCAS year.”

 

Related Slideshow: MA Education Officials Debate Future of State Standardized Tests

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Mitchell Chester

Commissioner, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

“We are in the middle of a two-year tryout of the PARCC. You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive. We know we have some items that need revision, that students found them confusing."

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Dianna L. Biancheria

Worcester School Committee

“I don’t want to see a hybrid of both tests; I want to see one or the other. The way I look at it is that the school district is prepared for PARCC testing or it isn’t. As a district, if we are ready and all factors are in place, then I see us moving forward. To split up the district would be irresponsible.”

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John L. Foley

Worcester School Committee

“There will always be some form of assessment tool in place to look at student achievement. The biggest concern that I have with moving to PARCC testing is that we lose the continuity of testing. Any sort of curriculum shift will render previous scores irrelevant. But then again, you always have to start somewhere.”

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David Perda

Chief Research & Accountability Officer, Worcester Public School District

“With any new initiative there is always a form of a learning curve. It would make it easier on the district if we could do some sort of hybrid. As a district, we don’t currently have any recommendation yet, but we are still giving it a lot of consideration; we have been asking a variety of people within the district about their opinion.”

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John F. Monfredo

Worcester School Committee

“I would like to get additional facts on PARCC testing. If PARCC is the next coming of MCAS then I want to find out exactly what we have to do and what some of the advantages could be. I would like a postponement of another year so that we can make an intelligent decision.”

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Tracy O'Connell Novick

Worcester School Committee

“I think it is unfortunate that we have to choose between two different standardized tests; we are choosing between two equally bad options. Teachers are evaluating students all of the time. We don’t need a formalized test which is something that is so outside of the classroom.”

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Linda Noonan

Executive Director, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education

“MCAS is a good test for basic skills and testing for proficiency, but it is a basic test. It doesn’t test college readiness. We need to have an assessment in place properly tests whether or students are ready for higher education.”

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Brian A. O'Connell

Worcester School Committee

“The MCAS was developed specifically for Massachusetts as the standard. I’m concerned with PARCC testing because it is based on a national standard, whereas in Massachusetts we hold ourselves to a higher standard. I think that we should have a test that is tailor made to our state’s individual needs.”

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Hilda Ramirez

Worcester School Committee

“PARCC testing has been designed to test students on college readiness and 21st Century skills. A computerized test shouldn’t be a surprise; this is why the district put an emphasis of improving our technology infrastructure. I believe that the right steps are being taken to help districts align to PARCC.”

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JC Considine

Chief of Staff, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the state came down to a 50-50 split. We are hoping for a good split so that we can make sure that both sides are accurately represented, so that when the time comes, we can make a decision as a state.”

 
 

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