Cambridge councilors take stand against standardized testing

Testing-2Cambridge councilors went on record Monday in support of a house bill that calls on the state Department of Education to not approve the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in public schools and to take a three-year break from high-stakes standardized tests as a requirement for high school graduation.

The bill, filed by former Cambridge city councilor and current state Rep. Marjorie Decker, also requests that the state establish an Educational Review Task Force to examine the effectiveness and impact of high-stakes standardized tests.

Councilor and state Rep. Timothy Toomey voted against the policy order, filed by councilors Marc McGovern and Craig Kelley, stating he is concerned that certain students will be left behind if the state gets rid of standardized tests.

“Once these things go away there’s not going to be any accountability. No other standard is going to come in,” Toomey said.

Kelley said high-stakes tests are a road to privatization. And McGovern added that PARCC uses private money and there is an issue about how the personal information they gather is used to market for-profit educational companies to schools, kids and families.

The bill, McGovern said, takes a step back to develop a system with accountability that is less test-focused.

“It has gone so far that now you have kids in first grade who are having these high-pressure tests. And as opposed to being evaluations, they’re used to assess teachers, schools, kids,” McGovern said. “Consequences for not doing well on the test are severe and the result is that instead of the tests assessing the curriculum, the curriculum evolves with the test. That has really poisoned a lot of what was beneficial in public education.”

Mayor David Maher had exercised his charter right on the policy order on May 18.

The bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Education for a hearing on June 11.

To read the bill, visit malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H340.