Worcester School Committee Member Delivers Amazing Testimony to School Board, Speaks the Truth About MCAS and PARCC!

tn"There is no way around it, Mr. Chair: we are not following the law, we have not been following the law, and, should you indeed limit yourself to the “either/or” of tests, we will still not be following the law, whichever way your vote goes in the fall." Tracy O'Connell Novick, a member of the Worcester (MA) School Committee, delivered this incredible speech earlier this month strongly urging the school board to adopt neither MCAS nor PARCC- and instead adopt “authentic and direct gauges of student performance” that “include consideration of work samples, projects and portfolios.”

Read below!

You are asking a multiple choice question when in fact it should be an essay question.
The question before us is not “MCAS or PARCC?”
The question is how to assess students in a way that “strike(s) a balance among considerations of accuracy, fairness, expense, and administration.” It should “employ a variety of assessment instruments on either a comprehensive or statistically valid sampling basis.” “As much as is practicable...such instruments (should) include consideration of work samples, projects and portfolios, and (should) facilitate authentic and direct gauges of student performance.”

Mr. Chair, none of that is my idea. That is what you are legally bound to do. That’s Mass General Law chapter 69 section 1I which has been sitting on the books since the education reform law passed 20 years ago.

This does not by any stretch of the imagination describe the MCAS. Nor does it by any stretch describe the PARCC.

There is no way around it, Mr. Chair: we are not following the law, we have not been following the law, and, should you indeed limit yourself to the “either/or” of tests, we will still not be following the law, whichever way your vote goes in the fall.
Thus while I would urge you take seriously the concerns that have been raised by those who have tested the PARCC-- from questions of age appropriateness (third graders don’t write essays) to technology issues (which, no, cannot be dismissed with ‘you should have magically already done this with an underfunded foundation budget that doesn’t include technology’) to sequencing and time (the amount of time an individual student may spend on a test does not well measure the impact it has on the school or the class)--the main problem of your choice will still remain.

While I have heard many of these concerned parried, and quite a few simply dismissed, what I have not heard is any attempt made to justify a system that continues to, at ground, measure nothing so well as parent income and education level. The exceptions to this are too often the result of school practices that none of us here would tolerate for our own children, and of attrition rates that I would respectfully suggest should have schools thoroughly investigated. As Deputy Commissioner Wulfson told you a few months ago, the SAT most reliably reflects parent income and education. That is no less true with our own standardized tests. So long as students, teachers, schools, and indeed entire communities stand or fall based on family W2s and diplomas, you will continue to have gaps, whether you refer to them as gaps of achievement or of opportunity.

As a system of assessment, that’s unacceptable. The massive infusion of investment that came as a result of the McDuffy lawsuit deserved a better partner than the current system of assessment. This is an opportunity to finally right that wrong. Adopting PARCC will not do that, Mr. Chair.

We could finally follow the law regarding assessment of our students. I would urge this Board to adopt neither of the assessments offered and instead adopted “authentic and direct gauges of student performance” that “include consideration of work samples, projects and portfolios.”

That is absolutely do-able.

And it is, Mr. Chair, the law.