Archives for category: Massachusetts

The Peabody School Committee unanimously passed a resolution calling for an investigation of whether State Commissioner Mitchell Chester has a conflict of interest as national chairman of the PARCC governing board.

Some people in the Bay State are still angry that school officials dropped the state’s successful standards and assessments in exchange for $75 million in Race to the Top funding. Some wondered why RTTT didn’t adopt Massachusetts as the national model.

The article says:

“Committee member Dave McGeney, an outspoken critic of Common Core, believes there is a major conflict and Chester should be booted out of office. He said he’s had it with Chester, who’s been “utterly” disingenuous during the rollout of the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) trial test, and who, in fact, has a vested interest in Massachusetts jumping aboard the Common Core bandwagon. McGeney also says there’s no evidence to back up many of Chester’s statements on the benefits of PARCC.

“Chester is the national chairman of the PARCC Governing Board for the third year and was instrumental in developing the standards.

“He’s been running around the state portraying the PARCC test as a two-year trial, and there’s all kinds of literature with his name attached to it and statements that it’s a trial … but his actions belie that,” McGeney told The Salem News prior to Tuesday’s committee vote.

McGeney said what “pushed him over the edge” was when he learned Chester was due to speak to executives in Washington, D.C., on “how to handle Common Core dissenters,” according to McGeney. “That’s what we are now; we’re labeled as ‘dissenters,’” he said. “The deck is stacked, the game is rigged, and I don’t like it. We have the least to gain and the most to lose.

“When we took the Race to the Top money … the federal government said, ‘We’ll give you this money, and you have to agree to adopt the Common Core standards’” McGeney said. “The standards hadn’t been written yet. It’s the same deal as Obamacare. We signed on to the deal and didn’t even know what it was.”

“The committee unanimously agreed on Tuesday to send a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick and other officials that says that the MCAS has led to “unprecedented improvement in student achievement in Massachusetts” since 1993, and to consider abandoning it in favor of a still “unproven and theoretical” test that may hold promise is a “monumental decision” that “demands objectivity, fairness and the impartial scrutiny of empirical data to determine the outcome.

“We believe that Mitchell Chester, by virtue of his role as National Chair of the PARCC Governing Board and other actions, represents a serious breach of trust, which is at odds with his primary duties and responsibilities, and at the very least gives the impression of bias towards PARCC and compromises the decision-making process,” the letter reads.

“There are some very intelligent people who think it’s (Common Core) great, and there are some very intelligent people who think it’s going to be lousy, but there are 90 percent of the people who don’t have a clue,” McGeney said.”

Todd Gazda, superintendent of schools in Ludlow, Massachusetts, posted a blog that expresses the outrage that so many educators feel today as a result of federal and state meddling in the work best left to educators.


Gazda writes: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

For his courage and wisdom, I am naming him to the honor roll as a champion of public education. If there were hundreds more Todd Gazda, no thousands more, we could reclaim this nation from the ignorant policymakers who seem determined to test children until they cry and to cripple public schools by overburdening them with mandates and demands while cutting their budgets. If our public schools manage to escape this era of austerity and chaos, it will be due to the leadership of educators like Todd Gazda.

Here is what he wrote:

We are at a pivotal juncture in this country with respect to education. Over the past decade, we have seen a dramatic escalation in the involvement of the Federal Government in education. There seems to be the belief in Washington that the alleged problems in public education in the U.S. can be corrected through national standards, increased regulations, standardized testing, and mandates regarding what and how our children should be taught. It seems that government at both the State and Federal levels want to take control of education away from locally elected officials and place that control in the hands of bureaucrats in the various state capitals and Washington. Nowhere is that practice more evident than here in Massachusetts.
We are drowning in initiatives. Even if they were all good ideas, there is no way we could effectively implement them all. They are getting in the way of each other and working to inhibit necessary change and progress. The number and pace of regulations to which we must respond and comply is increasing at an alarming rate. The following information is taken from the testimony of Tom Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, presented to the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Education Committee on June 27, 2013. An examination of the regulations and documents requiring action by local districts on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website demonstrates that from the years 1996 -2008 (13 years) there were 4,055 (average of 312 each year) documents requiring action of local districts in response to regulations. The same examination conducted on the four year period of 2009-2013 reveals that there were 5,382 (an average of 1077 each year) multiple page documents requiring action by local school districts. How are we effectively supposed to implement local initiatives and meet the needs of our students when we are mired in this bureaucratic nightmare of a system?

Education is an inherently local pursuit. To view it otherwise is misguided and detrimental to the mission of educating our children. In order for schools to be effective they must be responsive to the culture of the community in which they reside. The culture of those individual communities differ greatly and mandates which dictate uniformity for schools across the state, and now even the nation, are in direct contravention to that reality. Educational historian, David Tyack, stated that “The search for the one best system has ill served the pluralistic character of American Society. Bureaucracy has often perpetuated positions and outworn practices rather than serving the clients, the children to be taught.”

Current education reform is not designed to truly change education it merely adds additional levels of bureaucracy to an already overburdened system. The extreme emphasis on standardized testing is an unproductive exercise in bureaucratic compliance. As educators, however, if we speak out against the standardized testing movement and the amount of time it takes away from instruction then we are not for accountability. If we point out that many of the standardized test questions are not developmentally appropriate for the age of the students to whom they are being given, then we are not for rigor.
Assessments are an essential part of education. They serve as diagnostic tools that afford teachers the opportunity to determine areas where students need extra assistance or demonstrate when a topic needs to be re-taught. However, standardized tests whose scores take months to arrive, often after the student has moved on to another teacher, have a limited utility for shaping the educational environment. I am concerned that we are creating students who will excel in taking multiple choice tests. Unfortunately, life is not a multiple choice test. Enough is enough!
It is time for educators to push back against the standardized, centralized, top-down mandate driven school reform environment. I agree with the need for standards, but those standards need to be broadly written. Local communities, school boards, administrators and teachers should then be afforded the flexibility to demonstrate how they have worked to creatively to implement local initiatives in order to meet those broadly construed standards. The problem is that it is difficult to boil down creativity to a data point and that makes bureaucrats uncomfortable to say the least.

Well, where does that leave us? Education in the United States is constantly being compared to the systems in countries around the world. One important characteristic of education in those countries, which is consistently linked to the success of their students, is the esteem with which they hold their educators. It is time to treat our teachers with respect. It is time that we involve teachers in the discussion to set the direction for education in this country. They are the ones with the training and expertise. They are on the front lines in this battle. It is time that as educators we let our representatives at the state and federal levels know that we are headed in the wrong direction. It is time that, rather than be influenced by special interests, we focus on the students and the skills they need to be successful in our modern society. I will do my part. Will You?

Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, and Dennis Shirley are noted for their scholarly, articulate, and outspoken opposition to the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), which is spreading like a virus.

Now, one of the chief exponents of GERM–(Sir) Michael Barber–has delivered a report to Boston informing the business community that the schools are mediocre and need a strong infusion of privatization and (of course) more testing. (Sir) Michael Barber previously worked for McKinsey, and he is now the thought leader of that esteemed pusher of testing, Pearson.

Hargreaves, Sahlberg, and Shirley write here about why (Sir) Michael Barber is wrong. (Sir) Michael Barber made his reputation as a creator of the UK’s system of standards and assessments; because of his love of “targets,” he is known as Mr. Deliverology when he is not known as (Sir) Michael Barber. However, the authors point out that there has been no educational renaissance in England and that Massachusetts scores higher on the targets than the nation that last took (Sir) Michael Barber’s advice.


They write:


What’s wrong with the report? First, its grudging acknowledgement of positive educational outcomes in Massachusetts and grim portrait of the state’s shortfalls have little to do with the facts. Massachusetts is the leading state in the United States on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It is the only state in the United States with an “A” grade in the highly regarded Quality Counts 2014 State Report Card. It is also one of the world’s top-performing systems on a number of international assessments. Its rate of recent progress may be slower than some countries, but they’ve started from farther behind — Massachusetts literally has less room for improvement. To view the state’s school system as suffering from “complacency,” as the report claims, confounds all the findings of United States and international research on school achievement.
Moreover, the report draws many of its recommendation from the United Kingdom, where its lead author, Michael Barber, once worked as an advisor on education to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. England has made massive investments in “academies,” similar to government-supported charter schools here. It has explored various ways to prepare new teachers outside of a university setting. There have been targets and tests galore. Yet, results from the 2012 Program of International Assessment put England merely at the international average, 499, compared to Massachusetts students’ score of 524. For Bay State policymakers to follow England’s lead in education would be like the Red Sox taking coaching tips from the lowly Kansas City Royals.


EduShyster has outdone herself with this brilliant post.


It is the story of how the business leaders of Massachusetts got hornswoggled by some fellow named (Sir) Michael Barber, who works for Pearson and does big thinking for them. [NB: As an American, I don't recognize titles other than Mr., Miss, Mrs, and Dr.]


You know, of course, that Massachusetts made a “grand bargain” between its political leaders and its educators in 1993: a huge new infusion of funding in exchange for new standards and state tests, with equitable funding across the state and (later) a new investment in early childhood education. Massachusetts has long been recognized as the top-scoring state on NAEP.


Last week, Secretary Duncan visited Massachusetts to sound the alarm. These top-scoring kids are falling behind the global competition. That is a sign that there is trouble ahead and that “reform” is at your doorstep to tear apart everything that was carefully built over 20 years.


Then the business community conducted a poll among themselves and much to everyone’s surprise, their biggest complaint was that students spend too much time on testing.


Leave that sour note alone and turn to the main act: the business community commissioned a report from (Sir) Michael Barber of Pearson, who told them what Massachusetts must do to achieve real excellence. Well, you can only guess. A heavy does of privatization and–no surprise–more reliance on standardized testing. He is a numbers guy. If you read the linked article, you will see that a leading British columnist referred to him as “a control freak’s control freak.” His “bold” and “transformative” vision sounds as if it might have been written by Arne Duncan’s speechwriter, except for the part that was plagiarized from an article in the Boston Globe. As EduShyster notes, what did you expect from the great (Sir) Michael Barber for a measly $250,000? Original thinking? Real research? As we say in Brooklyn, fuhgeddaboutit!


Spoiler alert!!! Here is EduShyster’s brilliant ending:


One hundred and twenty pages later, we are confronted with a fiercely urgent question: will anything come of the bold report and its assorted unleashings? In a word, no. Here’s the Boston Globe’s James Vaznis:

“Business leaders may have a tough time selling their agenda to school leaders, teachers, and parents who resent corporate interests influencing the direction of public education. They fear schools will evolve into factories focused solely on producing workers and the joy of learning will be lost — a situation they say is already unfolding at many schools trying to boost test scores to avoid government sanctions.”

Now why couldn’t I have written that?


Thank you, EduShyster!


This should be interesting. President dent Obama will deliver
the commencement address at
Worcester Tech High School in
Massachusetts. Many Worcester parents are opting out of the Common
Core tests funded by the Obama administration. Secretary Duncan
visited Massachusetts last week and said its students–with the
nation’s highest scores on NAEP–are not prepared for global
competition. Wonder whether the President will echo his Secretary’s
sour comments about kids today.

A comment by a reader:

We are parents of 3 children in MA.

Since March 5th when I joined 6 moms from my town to attend a Northboro forum to hear Sandra Stotsky & Jamie Gass (www., we have been learning everything we can about PARCC/CCSS.

On Feb 24, we learned our 3rd grader “won” the PARCC ELA lottery “mandating” 5 additional days of research of “test the test” research. Here was my letter to her principal today – .

This is our formal notice requesting that our daughter not participate in the upcoming PARCC Pilot ELA assessment on April 1-3.

We have every intent to send our child to school – and more than willing to work with you and XYZ teacher. Our preference is to send her as usual to school on the bus. Please advise otherwise.

This is neither an easy or welcomed position to take as a parent.

Please know this decision has been made only after extensive reading, attendance at the district PARCC Pilot info session and finally, attendance at the DESE’s regional PARCC meeting with Bob Bickerton at Framingham State on Tuesday night.

It is unfortunate the DESE and Commissioner Chester have effectively ABANDONED administrators and teachers – and most importantly, OUR KIDS, with their much delayed response to the numerous requests calling for a formal “Opt Out” provision from districts and parents across our state.

Thanks in advance for your support of our decision.

This afternoon we received a response honoring this request.

Massachusetts officials say parents can’t opt out of state tests. Several local school districts are opting out anyway. Just do it. The children belong to their family, not the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Ask yourself:

What would Henry David Thoreau do?
What would Ralph Waldo Emerson do?

Although Mayor Joe Petty lobbied hard to reverse the school committee’s decision to allow parents to opt out, the school committee stuck with their original decision. Parents mounted a “say no to Joe” campaign, and the school committee agreed with the parents who elected them. Parents are free to opt their children out of PARCC Common Core field testing.

The school committee  of Tantasqua, Massachusetts, voted to permit parents to opt their children out of the PARCC tests.

In doing so, Tantasqua joins the school committees of Worcester and Norfolk, which reached the same decision.

The state department of education has opposed opting out, but the school committees are not following orders.

The Tantasqua vote was close, 8-7, and the deciding vote was cast by the chair of the committee, Michael J. Valanzola.

He said:

“It reaches the point of exhaustion, relative to the mandates from the state. Every time you turn around, there are new requirements on our school district but no money to back them up,” Mr. Valanzola said after the meeting. “And, for me, this sends a message that we are tired of the mandates and, ultimately, we are a School Choice district that believes in choice. Choice should rest with the parents and their right to be engaged in the process.” 

On Feb. 11, the Norfolk School Committee sent the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education a letter saying it would let parents decide for their children whether they will participate in the PARCC test. On March 6, the Worcester School Committee agreed to send a letter to the state similar to Norfolk’s. 


The Worcester Telegram commended parents who choose to opt out of state testing and reminded parents that they–not the federal government, not the GatesFoundation–are the ultimate controllers of their children’s education. The paper laments the fact that Massachusetts dropped its successful state standards to chase federal dollars.

After reviewing the genesis of Common Core,the newspaper concluded:

“Thus, the purity of the motives at play, and the content of Common Core and PARCC, are important issues, but not the first ones that must be addressed.

“That first issue is the unprecedented and illegal wresting of the core of public education from the hands of local players. Parents, teachers, and local school boards alike must first understand that what is happening is authorized by no law, and has no basis in the Constitution.

“Just as importantly, they must understand that they have the power to wrest it back. We urge them to start by rejecting Common Core and PARCC. Massachusetts should return to its own proud and successful traditions — the civil disobedience embodied by Henry David Thoreau, and the independence in public education pioneered by Horace Mann. In so doing, we can set an example for every state.”

The School Committee of Worcester gave parents the right to opt out of PARCC pilot testing, but Mayor Joe Petty is pressuring the School Committee to reverse its vote. Politicians who deny parents their right to say “no” should be voted out of office. If they don’t listen to parents, who will? I mean YOU, Mayor Petty.


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