Wednesday, June 3, 2015

MCAS v. PARCC ... By Christopher Cotter

    I am writing this to provide a better understanding of what is being taught in “OUR” children’s schools. This is the current curriculum of what is known as Common Core. Common Core was established by the Gates Foundation through a Gates funded project. This foundation was established by the billionaire Bill Gates. The goal was to promote and develop research in this education curriculum. It WAS created with unevaluated standards out of Washington D.C. which has still not been evaluated and/or validated by those who are teaching but is evaluated by this and other foundations.

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

    These standards are not sufficient to bringing our students to the top in education. This is set up to bring ALL students to a level playing field. Shouldn’t we, as parents and citizens, be pushing ALL of our students to go reach above and beyond what they believe to be their limits? The best analogy I’ve heard to compare this is, 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. As it is stated by several City of New Bedford administrators and School Committee members, Education is not a one size fits all approach. If they believe this, then why are they not pushing back on the state and get them to stop trying to mandate achievement using this one size fits all approach.  

    Did anyone on the New Bedford School Committee speak with several of our higher education schools and ask if these “New Standards” would benefit our children? If you’re curious about this, they are going into college unprepared with math admission standards. As an example, Algebra 1 is the key to advanced math study and recommends that students study it in 8th grade which is/was the case under Massachusetts standards. Common Core would, and does, delay ALGEBRA 1 until early in 10th grade, which in turn prevents our students from reaching higher levels of math in high school.
   I have heard from the New Bedford Public Schools administration, as well as PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) advocates, argue that 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.

    One area that is upsetting is that the education of our children is under local municipal control and that municipalities DO NOT have to adopt the PARCC test. As it was stated back in early to mid 2014 by the NBPS Superintendant, Pia Durkin, it would be a very good idea to administer the PARCC exam because the state had adopted this test to be effective in 2015/2016. This was NOT the case as the State legislature has not adopted anything yet and that it will be coming up for a vote this year. Does the general public know this? Parents needed to know, and should have been informed by the NBPD administration, as well as the New Bedford School Committee, that they could have opted out of this test.

    There was never a clear answer to this question when some parents had actually inquired about it. Again when PARCC was first mentioned, it was stated that students would not be held accountable for this exam when given in their classes. When some began to question their child’s participation in the exam, several parents were told that their child had to take the exam. Some were 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 their participation in the testing. How many of our children would defy a teacher placing an exam in front of them and say, “I’m not taking this” in fear of being sent to the principal and/or a punishment.

    I know that I won’t get an answer but are there any consequences for our students who refused to take the PARCC exam? When I looked up information, I found that it is the School Committee who has the statutory authority to enacted punishments for the refusal unless State Law supersedes it. 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 has made MA #1 in NAEP results and has been the key to the MA “Education Miracle” and PARCC has no comparable results.
3) MCAS was developed by MA educators and PARCC was developed outside of MA
4) 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.
5) 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.
6) 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, is quite clear. When it comes to education, the jurisdiction falls within each state and not the federal government. The Race to the Top was the federal government’s way of dangling the carrot in front of states to sign on and you guessed it, Massachusetts did just that. But as I stated, that money is gone and our state and out city are being left high and dry. When former governor Patrick, and Head of the DOE, signed on for this money, did either of them do a cost projection analysis? This is, in part, what we are seeing now and why the NBPS administration is looking for such a high increase in the budget these past two years.

    Due to the lack of foresight on all those involved, state government, state DOE, the 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 approximately 16 BILLION to align schools with texts and teachers for this common core curriculum. None of this money is coming from the federal government any longer nor is it coming from the billionaire dollar Gates Foundation. Those in charge may not have done the projection but Pearson Publishing did. This company is making billions of dollars off of not just the text books but also have the publishing rights for the PARCC exams.

    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 have pushed their way into enacting education on a federal level. More parents need to find out what is happening to our education system state wide and know their rights as well. Keep in mind that Massachusetts was at one time, #1 in education with its standards ad this is why other states were, and are, waiting to see if our state will sign on.  

I would like to know from each of the members of the New Bedford School Committee, why did you sign on to administer the PARCC exam? I’m sure that there are several other concerned citizens of our educational system that would also like to know this answer. Will we get an answer? Only time will tell. As it was stated by Mr. 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 standards of PARCC that are being forced on our children. The threats of withholding State Ch.70 monies are not possible as the monies are not tied to MCAS results or any test. The MCAS is 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 our veteran teachers out and replacing them with the less experienced teachers. We need to stand behind all of 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. When asked if there is a pattern to the mass exit, the response is there is no pattern. Really? This is a satisfactory answer to our School Committee?    
    On the PARCC exams this year, they were titled as a “2015 Field Test Exam”. Basically this exam was an experiment with our children as the test subjects. The issue we all should have with this is that Pearson, a British owned Company, is making money off the use of our children for their Field Test 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 the students were all “Forced” to take the exam and our teachers were “Mandated Volunteers” as proctors. Pearson has bought and paid for all the rights to this exam and subject materials.

    Has anyone questioned who are grading these exams? They, Pearson, have advertised both on Craig’s list and through the Kelly Services Temporary Work agency for graders with no education experience at all. The following is directly from their web site.
Pay is approx. 12.00 through Pearson with additional incentives.


-  Conferred a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
-  Eligible to work in the United States
-  U.S. residency
-  Basic computer skills (keyboard, mouse)
-  Ability to maintain a confidential work environment  
-  Access to a home or office computer that meets the requirements of the scoring system, internet service, and telephone connection. For security reasons, readers may not use shared office computers or work from institutional or public computer labs.
-  Availability to work a minimum of 20 hours per week
- Teaching experience is preferred
    We as a community need to stand up for our children and make our voices heard in their education. As my children are both grown adults, and proud graduates of the NBPS, I have no horse in this race and will be your voice on the School Committee. Not just a person representing special interest groups, pushing my own agenda, or just being in agreement with the majority, but a person who will bring every question to the committee and respond to them as well. I will represent, first and foremost the students of this great city, parents, educators, staff, and all of the citizens.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Plagiarism is the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas" Wikipedia