School Talk

PARCC over Politics? One Can Hope.

It makes sense that Massachusetts sits at the top of the K-12 education rankings consistently. While so many states struggle with mediocre standards, poor student performance, and cultures of low educational expectations, Massachusetts has always been the model, the aspiration. And deservedly so.

The Baystate has shown itself to be a leader on the education front, a trailblazer when it comes to high standards for all kids and the requirement that all kids pass a consistent assessment in order to earn a high school diploma. Despite rigorous debate in the early days of reform, it’s clear that they’ve led to more learning and better schools for Massachusetts children. 90 percent of students in Massachusetts pass the MCAS and are deemed ready for what comes next, whether it be college, work, or service in America’s military.

Three urban superintendents, including Boston Public Schools’ Tommy Chang, testified about the importance of moving away from MCAS and adopting PARCC.

In order for us to diagnose, teacher and school to diagnose, plan, support and assess the transformation needed for teaching and learning and the types of cognitively demanding tasks assessments that match the rigor required in the Common Core. As a principal leader recently stated “Teaching to this test is better teaching.”

And the evidence is clear: MA students are proving not to be prepared for college and career. Despite strong results during their K-12 years, they are not equipped with the skills now required to thrive in America’s quickly changing economy.The world has changed and public education is racing to keep up, with Massachusetts always in the lead.

Remediation rates are a big piece of this puzzle though truth be told, I had wrongly assumed that  Massachusetts couldn’t possibly be bogged down with high remediation rates.

When Massachusetts adopted the MCAS nearly 20 years ago, students struggled to clear the bar. Today, proficiency rates are at 90. Contrast that with data on the preparation of students when they enter college or the workforce and the expectations gap becomes clear: 37 percent of our high school graduates (all of whom presumably passed the MCAS exam) need to take remedial courses when they arrive in one of our public colleges. That number jumps to 65 percent in our community colleges. (excerpted from Boston Globe Op-Ed written by Richard Freeland, former state commissioner of higher education President of Northeastern University and John Davis, former chairman and CEO of the American Saw and Manufacturing Company of East Longmeadow.)

As is seemingly always the case, politics has gotten in the way of of staying the course on PARCC in Massachusetts. In the wake of pressure from special interests, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has made a sudden pivot to a hybrid model for testing, but laid out no implementation timeline or cost details for those who have already worked tirelessly to make PARCC a success in their buildings. Chester’s has long been a supporter of PARCC; in fact, he chairs the board that governs the PARCC consortium.

We like PARCC, but we care about what the test achieves, not what it’s called. If they are to change course yet again, Mitchell, Peyser and the board must assure the option they recommend is educationally sound, not just politically expedient.

Let’s make it so our graduates can stop paying for classes in college that they should have already taken and for which they will receive zero credit.

Yeah. Let’s do that.

What do you think?

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