Questions arise on Common Core and PARCC

Rep. Roy meeting with Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, Curriculum Direct Susan Whettle, and Rep. Jonathan Hecht.

Rep. Roy meeting with Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, Curriculum Director Susan Whettle, and Rep. Jonathan Hecht.

Several parents have reached out to our office to inquire about the implementation of the Common Core and PARCC testing in Massachusetts. In 2010, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) voted to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to replace the English Language Arts and Mathematics Curriculum Frameworks. Committees of educators, working with DESE, augmented and customized the Common Core in a process that led to the development of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks that were approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at their December 21, 2010 meeting.

The new frameworks were followed by a proposed new assessment tool known as thePartnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to replace the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS)PARCC is a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers. These high quality, computer-based K–12 assessments in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy give teachers, schools, students, and parents better information on whether students are on track in their learning and for success after high school, and tools to help teachers customize learning to meet student needs. Massachusetts has just begun a two-year trial period for PARCC assessments and will determine in 2016 whether to continue after receiving feedback from educators, policymakers, parents, and students.

The goal of the curriculum frameworks and PARCC field testing is to strengthen the education system in Massachusetts and help our kids be college and career ready.

The Nation at Risk report from 1983 provided the backdrop for education reform efforts throughout the nation. Following that report and a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of education in the Commonwealth, standards-based reforms were introduced in 1993 with passage of the Education Reform Act. This law called for high standards for achievement, accountability for performance, and equitable funding for meeting these goals and set forth a Common Core for Learning program. The 2010 revisions were part of DESE’s efforts at continued improvement of our educational offerings and further reforms.

The latest round of reforms has raised questions about whether Massachusetts was taking steps backward, and whether the federal government was encroaching on local authority.

To address these concerns, Rep. Roy has met with representatives from DESE and the School Superintendents in the area. In addition, he has participated in a number of meetings on the subject. Rep. Roy is a former School Committee member and a current member of the Joint Committee on Education. The Education Committee has conducted a number of hearings on this topic and received many briefing materials. The DESE website has a page dedicated to PARCC which includes many of these materials and which you can view by clicking here. The site also contains answers to frequently asked questions that address many of these concerns.

Earlier in the week, a new report was issued entitled The New Opportunity to Lead, a vision for education in Massachusetts in the next 20 years. The report outlines some of the things we need to do in Massachusetts to make our already good school system great. The Common Core and PARCC fit in rather well with this vision.

In addition, the Condition of Education in the Commonwealth report for 2013 addresses continuing challenges — ranging from a lack of school readiness to a lingering proficiency gap to the need to ensure all students are college and career ready.

Rep. Roy has committed himself to becoming well-versed on the topic and has attended a number of programs and seminars on both Common Core and PARCC. He is looking to bring some experts to the district to engage with residents.

Massachusetts has a centuries old-commitment to excellence in public education and we look forward to insuring that our students get a top notch education.

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2 Responses to Questions arise on Common Core and PARCC

  1. Kirk Souza says:

    Parents in your district, such as myself in Medway, strongly oppose Common Core. Your discussion on Friday, April 11th in Franklin is stacked with people who support Common Core. We want our voices to be heard too. Please add a panelist that OPPOSES Common Core to your discussion.
    I realize that you are accepting questions in advance written on note cards. This is not acceptable. Without a dissenting panelist your discussion is a kangaroo court. Please consider the interests of your constituents and add a panelist that opposes Common Core.
    (I would be happy to help you select a panelist. Sandra Stotsky or someone from the Pioneer Institute are great choices.)
    -Kirk Souza
    Medway, MA

  2. Steven Lee says:

    Here are some quotes from just the first few comments on the MA PARCC testing found here:

    http://testingtalk.org/responses/?s=&region=ma&test=parcc-pilot&content_area=&category=&grade=

    “It appears as if the folks responsible for creating the buggy health care websites also dabbled in creating an electronic high-stakes test. While I understand this round of testing was, in essence, to beta test the PARCC testing software, I was surprised at how much work is still needed. Not everything computerized is a good thing, and I was not impressed with this.”

    “The PARCC assessment was a complete joke in our district. The students were unable to stay logged in and computers froze constantly. The videos did not work. After one full hour, on Day 2, I still did not have every student logged in and working. I was testing 23 students and had two technology employees, myself, our testing coordinator and another fifth grade teacher in my room. Between us, we were unable to get all of my students testing at the same time.”

    “I guess the “structured response” or “essay” was supposed to take an hour? I truly hope this looks NOTHING like the final product. Also, our principal waited on hold for 45 minutes to find out if students could use strategies in the test booklet(not just scrap paper)…she was told NO.”

    Do you think maybe the tests should have been piloted on one district, prior to throwing nearly every district in the Commonwealth into what amounts to tax-payer funded beta-testing for PARCC and Pearson? I can’t beleive how much time and effort was wasted admimistering a test that doesn’t even appear to have been given a cursory check.

    I’m really disappointed in how eager you are to promote this as a viable replacement to MCAS, congressman. It seems like PARCC has a long way to go before it is ready for primetime.

    Steven Lee,
    Medway

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