Monday, May 11, 2015

MCAS v. PARCC .... by Chris Cotter

In 2010, the State of MA adopted the Common Core when it was promised a part of $250million in Federal Race to the Top money. Well this money is all gone and we the City if New Bedford are stuck paying for the bill to follow this Common Core curriculum. It was not just the money that the State of MA signed onto but also the Common Core standards.

    These standards are not sufficient to bring our students to the top but is set up to bring ALL students to a level playing field. This is not something where we push ALL of our students to go above and beyond. The best analogy to this is that the slowest person will not catch up to the fastest person but the fastest person can slow down and allow the slower person to catch up. We cannot mandate achievement, as education is not a one size fits all approach.

    PARCC advocates argue, which I have heard from this administration, these tests would better prepare students for college and careers. But Common Core ends with Algebra II which is insufficient for students aiming for STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) majors.

    Did anyone on this committee speak with several of our higher education schools and ask if these “New Standards” would benefit our children? They are going into college unprepared. Algebra 1 is the key to advanced math study and recommends that students study it in 8th grade which is/was the case under MA standards. Common Core would delay ALGEBRA 1 until early in 10th grade, which in turn prevents our students from reaching high levels of math in High School.

    One area that upsets me about this is that the education of our children is under local control and that municipalities DO NOT have to adopt the PARCC test. It was stated back in early 2014 that it would be a good idea to administer this test because the state had adopted this test to be effective in 2015/2016. That is NOT the case and the general public needs not know this.
    Parents needed to know, and be informed by this committee, that they could opt out of this test. There was never a clear answer to this question when some parents inquired about it. Some were told that they had to take the exam, some told that they, the parent, could not opt out of the exam for their child and that it was the child that needed to refuse to take the test. How many of our children would defy a teacher placing an exam in front of them and say “I’m not taking this!”

    More parents need to find out what is happening to our education system state wide and know their rights as well.

    I found that it is this elected committee who has the statutory authority to enacted punishments for the refusal unless State Law supersedes it. Are there any? Another interesting area is that Superintendants must follow what is set by School Committee and not the other way around.
Here are some reasons that I take issue with the MCAS vs. PARCC standards:
1) MCAS has a proven record and PARCC has no demonstrable track record.
2) MCAS was developed by MA educators and PARCC was developed outside of MA
3) MCAS was vetted through the public process with transparency in every step; PARCC was developed behind closed doors, copyrighted by a private entity and reviewed by a validation committee whose members were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the review.
4) Well recognized experts with teaching experience were part of the assessment development for MCAS; the teaching expertise of writers for the multi-state consortium PARCC assessments is not a matter of public record.
5) MCAS secures control of curriculum with the local school districts; PARCC forces the adoption of a national curriculum in order to pass the assessment.
    Our U.S. Bill of Rights, under the 9th and 10th amendments, state that education jurisdiction falls within each state and not the federal government. The Race to the Top was the Federal government dangling the carrot in front of states to sign on to a National curriculum. But as stated, that money is gone and the states are being left high and dry. When our prior governor, and Head of the DOE, signed on for this, did either of them do a cost projection analysis? This is in part WHAT WE ARE SEEING NOW and why the NBPS is looking for such a high increase in the budget for the past two years. Due to the lack of foresight on all those involved, state government, State DOE, City of NB School Committee, it is the City of New Bedford taxpayer who is being stuck with the bill. The approx. cost projection is costing an approx. 16 BILLION to align schools with texts and teachers for this common core curriculum. Those in charge may not have done the projection but Pearson Publishing did.

    So I want the citizens of NB to understand that the PARCC exam is a test where there are no assessments in place. The drivers of this program have no experience and are individuals hired by the foundation that has pushed their way into enacting education on a federal level.

    As was stated by Tom Birmingham, of The Patriot Ledger, “Let’s work on building MCAS and not replace it with National standards and testing that show little promise of replicating its success”.

    We need to push back against the DOE and let them know that you, our Elected officials, are going to challenge these Mandated state standards of PARCC that are being forced on our children. The MCAS are a school performance evaluation and not connected to the teacher evaluations. With PARCC it is based on a teacher evaluation and this is one reason I see the big push. We are pushing are veteran teachers out and replacing them with the less experienced teachers. We, YOU, need to stand behind our teachers and provide them the necessary tools to teach our children and not threaten them with a PARCC evaluation system.

    Look at the exit of several teachers, principals, administrators, and staff support, and ask yourselves, WHY ARE THEY ALL LEAVING? The truth being told to me by several is that they cannot work under a threatening environment. This also goes for the non-extensions of principal contracts. We are losing too many veteran educators in this system instead of retaining them.     
As was listed on the PARCC exams this year, this was titled as a “2015 Field Test Exam”. Basically this exam was an experiment with our children as the test subjects. The issue I have with this is that Pearson, a British owned Company, is making money off the use of our children for this exam. In test experiments, test subjects get paid for their participation and proctors get paid for monitoring. So both our students and teachers should have been compensated “Outside of their normal pay” for proctoring these exams. Instead they were all “Forced” to take the exam and our teachers were “Mandated volunteers” as proctors. Pearson has brought and paid for all the rights to this exam and subject materials.

As far as who is grading these exams, they have advertised both on Craig’s list and through the Kelly Services Temporary Work agency for graders with no education experience at all. I could go on but my time is too short.


Anonymous said...

V O T E for C O T T E R
(if you still live in this city)

Anonymous said...

nice job office Cotter, we need you on the school committee

Anonymous said...

PARCC is not the reason educators are leaving their positions. Take a couple guesses why!

Anonymous said...

The MCAS vs PARCC discussion is moot to the overall education of our city's children. Money is going to be spent regardless of public opinion. The superintendent determines need, convinces the SC and the mayor, and off we go. Taxpayers pay the bill. Where the superintendent is getting the input for the budget is anyone's guess. She did not come to me, a veteran teacher with decades of experience. Did she go to all the newbies in administration, or the principals who are supposedly leaving? It would be an interesting question to get the answer, that is find the real impetus for the budget. Other than overhead costs, the input should come from the teachers, the people in the classroom day in and day out. Learning is quite different today than it was years ago. Students do not study, have no books to take home, and even if they did, the materials would be either destroyed or lost. The desire to want to learn, with vision of leading to a well-paying job or career readiness is not realized by most students. This cultivation of self-awareness and maturation of student efficacy is deprived to students because this type of content is not discussed at length at home. Until this dynamic is reversed, meaning the parent takes the lead in the conversation, and the educator reinforces it, the question of MCAS or PARCC, well I'm sorry to say, will not result in anything that is different to what is trending today. New Bedford will be at the bottom of the state's non-performers.

Anonymous said...

Until we can get a police chief as scary as Pia this city will be taken over by car burning idiots.