Stacking up winners and losers in the Great Massessment Debate…
*I’ll take door number three, Monty.* Wait—there’s a door number three¿¿¿ I speak, of course, of the remarkable journey that has been the Great Massessment Debate. PARCC vs. MCAS. MCAS vs. PARCC. This week the path to college and career readiness suddenly reached a fork in the road, by which I mean a trident. But as any young Massessee who has fallen on the wrong side of the cut score can attest, there must be winners and losers in this particular contest. To the doors, reader!
You know how when you’ve been with someone (or something) for a while and you wake up one morning and find yourself thinking: *I wonder what’s behind that other door?* Only you don’t want to, like, move in behind the other door, you just want to maybe poke around a bit and identify the best bits, then combine those bits with the best bits of what you’ve currently got until, presto, whammo, you’ve got a hybrid, aka *door number three.* Now you know how the Massachusetts Commissioner of College and Career Readiness, Mitchell D. Chester, felt this week, when, after going steady with PARCC for three years, he announced that he was feeling a little, ahem, poly-exam-orous. Full disclosure: I didn’t come up with this bon mot myself. This guy did.
MBAE’s bae (L)
Speaking of going steady, PARCC has been MBAE’s bae since even before they released that *study* last year declaring that PARCC trounced MCAS in the college readiness sweepstakes, even though no one had actually taken the PARCC test yet or gone to college. But whatevs. MBAE (which, for the acronymically disinclined, stands for the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education) took the news that the state may be seeing other assessments about as well as one would expect. *It sounds like sort of a Band-Aid approach,* MBAE chief Linda Noonan told the Boston Globe. *And perhaps generated more from political motivation than from…an educational imperative.* Huh…
Teachers are the obvious losers in this week’s PARCC vs. MCAS standoff. That’s because as we know from an oft cited poll that has been oft cited in recent weeks, three quarters of teachers in the Bay State believe that PARCC will make their students college readier than its predecessor. It’s math time, reader. If Massachusetts has 69,342 public school teachers, how many equals *three quarters*? If you answered *the 351 of them who showed up at Teach Plus events where the poll was conducted, 72% of whom, or a grand total of 252, registered pro-PARCC sentiments,* congratulations. As for the rest of you, I’m afraid it’s remediation time…
Just in case you happened to miss the PARCC vs. MCAS road shows that Massachusetts education officials have been holding across the state, let me sum them up for you this way. Parents, students and teachers will sit through an extraordinary amount of boosterish *official* testimony (PARCC Fellows!) if it means that, eventually, they’ll have an opportunity to sound off—not just on what kind of test, but on whether there’s too much testing in an increasingly test-obsessed state. Then there was this teacher who started off her testimony by declaring that PARCC spelled backwards is *crap,* and then proceeded to grill Commissioner of College and Career Readiness Mitchell D. Chester on his ties to testing giant, Pearson. See related winner: *Pushback.*
PARCC Fellows (L)
Whither the PARCC Fellows, a select group of teachers who are *excited about the content of the Common Core State Standards* and *already engaged in leadership work around them?* Will they become MCAS 2.0 Fellows? Or PARCC 2.0 Fellows with a Massachusetts flavor? Or might there be opportunities to *embed their teacher leadership within districts to support student learning and educator effectiveness?* Note: the Teacher Leadership Professional Learning Network/Teacher Advisory Cabinet is NOT the same as Teach Plus/Teachers Cabinet which is also NOT the same as Educators 4 Excellence.
The Pioneers (W)
I am no particular fan of the Pioneers. (See, for example, this recent gem by chief pioneer Jim Stergios.) But allow me to tip my hat to 1) their outstanding contribution to the field of satisfyingly obvious imagery (note: that thumb on the scale belongs to the cuff of none other than Mitchell D. Chester); 2) their undying devotion to poetry; and 3) the fact that they basically forced the Great Massessment Debate. Can you imagine if we got to have similar debates over other policy areas where thumbs are similarly pressing upon scales—like, say, this one?
Conflicts of interest (L)
As faithful readers of this page can attest, the cause of un-failing our failed and failing public schools and at last putting youngsters on a path to college, career readiness and 21st century world skills seems often to lead right into a conflict-of-interest cul de sac. But even in a climate of ceaseless carerruption, the case of Mitchell D. Chester’s many conflicting hats seemed extraordinary. Which is why this writer is heartened that the lesson of the Great Massessment Debate turns out to be the exact same lesson from Boston 2024 Olympic Bid Process (and the Boston Compact, and [insert some thing you haven’t even heard about yet…]) What is that lesson, one wonders? As the Globe’s Joanna Weiss helpfully explains, *planning that largely [takes] place outside of public view, creating distrust and raising questions about how much influence outside groups, companies, and philanthropists should have over local policy* can undermine even the best-laid schemes…
*Planning that largely [takes] place outside of public view, creating distrust and raising questions about how much influence outside groups, companies, and philanthropists should have over local policy* can undermine even the best-laid schemes…
Test prep (W)
Lest we pop our Champagne corks too soon (too late!), let us remind ourselves that the Great Assessment Debate is still only a debate over which test, not how much is too much, or whether we’re *OK* with the fact that poor minority students increasingly attend test prep academies. No clearer reminder of that could be found this week than this story about students at long-struggling English High, whose math MCAS scores were held due to an unspecified anomaly otherwise known as *much improvement.* How did the students produce test score gains such that the state didn’t believe the gains were possible? I’ll let student Carimar Melendez explain: *We worked basically the whole year thinking toward the MCAS and…how proud we would feel to pass it.*
Tracy Novick (W)
And finally, a shout out to edu-blogger extraordinaire Tracy Novick, whose thumbs do not tip scales but rather Tweet tirelessly from hearings like this week’s marathon Board of Education meeting. With little local news coverage around education policy issues, Tracy has stepped in, or rather sat down, to document what actually happens when edu-crats gather. Oh, and she also turns out to be something of a poet-ess…
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