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HWRSD endorses position letter on Common Core, PARCC

Date: 1/22/2015

WILBRAHAM – The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee voted unanimously to endorse a position statement by the Western Massachusetts Coalition of Education Leaders, which addresses issues such as the Common Core State Standards and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. 

“This isn’t necessarily an anti Common Core document and even regarding PARCC, it’s about we need additional information, that it needs to vetted by educators. It is a carefully worded document that expresses concerns about all the expectations that are being forced upon us,” Superintendent of Schools M. Martin O’Shea said.

School Committee Chair Marc Ducey said the coalition was created in July and  O’Shea and Longmeadow Superintendent Marie Doyle greatly contributed to the creation of the document.

“We agreed in the coalition, myself and [O’Shea], agreed to spearhead it the first year and my hope [is] come next year we’ll hand the baton off to another group and they can take it and run with it,” Ducey added. “But we still should play an active role in this. It’s a strong statement.”

O’Shea said there are several local public school districts currently involved with the coalition, including Agawam, Hadley, Palmer, Monson, Longmeadow, Southwick-Tolland, East Longmeadow, West Springfield, and Ludlow.

“So our hope now is that once we get this formal document signed and agreed to and voted on, then we will reach out to a host of different school districts, which then simply they say, yes or no,” Ducey said.

The coalition’s intent is also to send off the statement to local state legislatures and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), he noted. The final document would be signed at the coalition’s Jan. 28 meeting.

School Committee member Peter Salerno read the document, which included statements regarding the impact of the unrealistic pace, unmanageable cost, and amount of required state and federal initiatives.

“To an already long list of mandates, DESE has in the past two years alone added the following  – requirements to implement Common Core State Standards, a new framework for educator evaluations, a new set of assessments called District Determined Measures, [and] a new high-stakes standardized test created by PARCC,” Salerno stated.

“State and federal revenues have not kept pace with the demands created by these new initiatives,” he continued. “Stark evidence of the alarming number and pace of state and federal initiatives comes from testimony of [Thomas] Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.”

Salerno said Scott reviewed DESE’s regulations required by local districts. Scott testified to the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education on June 27, 2013, citing information on DESE’s website from 1996 to 2008 included 4,055 documents requiring action of local districts in response to regulations – an average of 312 per year.

“The same examination conducted on a four-year period from 2009 to 2013, there were 5,382 – an average of 1,077 per year, multiple page documents that require action by school districts,” Salerno added.

The coalition’s position paper also addressed PARCC, Salerno noted. The statement included the opinion that the PARCC exam is being implemented without adequate funding or technology.

“The coalition is not convinced that the new exams questions are appropriately constructed and properly aligned with the new standards,” Salerno added.

The 2013-2014 PARCC pilot results also have not been shared with districts throughout the Commonwealth, he noted.

“It is reasonable to expect this information, given that PARCC tests could have a major impact on the public schools across the state and given that reporting the required data, preparing students and classrooms for the new assessment, [and] experience administrating the pilot involve significant time and resources,” Salerno stated.

Another topic the coalition addressed within the document is its opinion that DESE is putting too much emphasis on standardized testing.

“The time and resources devoted to standardized testing are excessive,” Salerno said. “Valuable teaching and learning time has been lost because of standardized testing.”