Students and teacher speak out for LESS TESTING, MORE LEARNING!

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The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education held a hearing on PARCC and the use of standardized assessments in public education across the state. Students, teachers, parents, community members, and public education advocates showed up in force to voice their opposition to the use of PARCC and MCAS in graduation requirements and teacher evaluations. BSAC student Rebecca Holland and Boston Arts Academy teacher Cassandra Wallace shared with DESE and BEJA the following testimony:

My name is Rebecca Holland and I'm here representing BSAC an I'm a student at Boston Latin Academy. I'm here to testify against the new PARCC test. The test is damaging. Teachers have to waste time to teach to the test instead of actually blocking out time to teach the necessary curriculum for their students. 

I'm anti PARCC and anti standardized testing in general. These tests are damaging. They put teachers jobs at risk by being tired to their evaluations, they create a high level of anxiety within classrooms as the testing date approaches, and do not prove that any student is "college ready." Many students can be great students and achieve stellar grades BUT just happen to be poor standardized test takers. 

This test is just another money maker for its company. These tests disenfranchise students and make them feel less than what they are when they get poor scores. As many of you know these tests are broken up into multiple parts at times, where there is an A, B, and C. And if a student were to mess up part A they're more likely to get parts B and C wrong. When this happens the student will get a poor score and the test company will report back to the school that that student should take ANOTHER test to prove their "college readiness" worth. 

As someone had mentioned earlier at the start of a meeting with the story feeling overwhelming anxiety I think that just goes to show how much pressure our students are under in order to perform well on these exams. It's gotten so bad that there are actually directions in test booklets that instruct proctors what to do if a student were to get sick and vomit on their test. How have we gotten to this point that we actually need to dedicate a section of directions for this? 

As BSAC and YOUNG we demand that high stakes testing is not used as a graduation requirement, that it not be tied to teacher evaluations, that it not be tied to school rankings, and that it only be administered once in elementary, middle and high school. 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Good evening.  
My name is Cassandra Wallace, and I am a math and physics teacher at the Boston Arts Academy.

In recent years, public education policy has dictated that we measure the success of students, teachers, and their schools through high-stakes standardized tests, beginning with the MCAS. Now it seems that the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is leaning toward adopting a new test, the PARCC, and you are here to ask us which one is better. Well, I choose C - none of the above, because I reject the notion that any one test can give an accurate picture of the quality of our students’ education.

One of the things I am most proud of at the Boston Arts Academy is our capstone project - the senior grant project. All of our students must identify an issue in their community and come up with a creative project idea using their arts and academic training to address the problem. Our students must write a grant proposal and present their ideas to community judges, who come from various professions. It is through this project that I know our students are not just college and career ready but also collaborative innovators. This is also how the community holds our students as well as our educators accountable for their progress and learning.

However, our scores on the MCAS designate us as a Level 3 school, which means we are in the “lowest performing 20% of schools.” This ranking is almost entirely based on the 3 MCAS tests our students take - in Engineering, Math, & ELA. The fact that our students spend a third of their time in arts classes, completing a full arts program in addition to their academic coursework, is completely disregarded. Our school is currently ranked in the 19th %ile, meaning if a few other schools do a little worse than we do this year, we might get bumped up to Level 1!

Which brings me to my main point - which is that whatever test you use, whether PARCC or MCAS, as long as your accountability system is based on rankings, there will always be a bottom 20%. Even if ALL schools across the Commonwealth improve tenfold, there would still be a bottom 20% - because that’s how math works. Our students and schools should not be racing to the top, because it pits schools against each other competing for already insubstantial resources, instead of working collectively to improve education.

If you actually wanted to improve schools, you would be talking about curriculum and instruction, inequitable distribution of dwindling resources, high teacher turnover rates, recruiting and retaining teachers of color, culturally competent classrooms, unjust school discipline policies, poverty, and the perpetuation of racially segregated schools.

So, I say NO to MCAS. I say NO to PARCC.

I say: Less Testing, More Learning, because we can do better for our students.

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