EduShyster takes a hilarious look at the complicated landscape of Common Core testing in Massachusetts. The state is soon to make a decision about whether to stick with its MCAS exams or switch to the Common Core PARCC exams.

 

Is it a conflict of interest when the State Commissioner Mitchell Chester also happens to be chair of the governing board of PARCC?

 

She writes (with marvelous illustrations):

 

You see, Commissioner Chester wears more than one hat, as they say. Sporting his fedora of excellence, he has just presided over the start of an ambitious two-year effort to test drive the PARCC tests in more than 1,000 Massachusetts schools so that the state Board of Education, which Chester also advises, can vote in 2015 on whether to replace the old, outdated and outmoded MCAS tests with the cool new computerized PARCC edition. Still with me? But in his second hat—let’s call it his readiness beret—Chester serves as chairman of the governing board for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers otherwise known as PARCC: the *multi-state consortium* tasked both with developing the new tests and relentlessly flogging them until all *multi-states* adopt them. Did I say two hats? Make that three. Chester is also a director as well as the president of PARCC, Inc., a nonprofit that’s been created to make the development and implementation of the new PARCC assessments *more effective and efficient.* (See exhibit A). Got it? Good. Because it’s test time.
Now, exercising the career-and-college-readiness skills of observation, deduction, and proper use and evaluation of evidence would you say that Commissioner Chester’s dueling headgear as described above constitutes a. a conflict of interest b. a breach of trust c. just good common cents or d. time for more scotch? If you are a member of the Peabody School Committee [note to out-of-towners, correct pronunciation is Pea-buh-dee], the answer to this high-stakes question couldn’t be clearer. *It’s an outrageous conflict of interest and a breach of public trust,* says School Committee member Dave McGeney. The Committee recently voted unanimously to ask state officials to investigate the matter. McGeney says that Chester needs to pick a hat, any hat, but he can’t wear them all. *How can he be chairman of PARCC and also entering into agreements with PARCC on behalf of Massachusetts? It defies logic,* says McGeney.

 

Except that we’re in PARCC Place, where the old fusty logic about things like breaches of public trust and conflicts of the interest variety no longer apply. Someone has to get these kids college and career ready and apparently it’s not going to be you (hater.) Besides, Commissioner Chester took it upon himself to seek advice from the State Ethics Commission about a possible conflict of interest. In 2013. Three years after Chester signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to join PARCC and became chair of its governing board. And just to be extra, extra sure, Chester also checked his hats with Secretary of Education Matt Malone and the Chairwoman of the Board of Education, Maura Banta, who was also signatory to the MOU and who will eventually vote on whether the state should adopt the new PARCC assessments.
Meanwhile, some 80,000 Massachusetts students in grades 3-11 recently wrapped up the first round of PARCC piloting; they’ll resume test driving in May. Which brings us to the only question that really matters: how great are the PARCC assessments at measuring readiness, college and career style? Really great, reader. You see, drop the pesky *A,* which stands for Achieve, and the *CC*, which stands for Common Core, and you’re left with *PR,* as displayed in this handy informational assemblage of quotes, purporting to be from educators, parents and students, like Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, *responding positively to their early experiences with the assessments.*

 

 

What do you think Commissioner Chester will decide?