MA Replaces PARCC with PARCC: Tea Party and Teacher Unions Cheer

Today’s New York Times features a doomsday article on the demise of the PARCC assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards in Massachusetts. In language that would have warmed the cockles of Cotton Mather’s heart (fun fact: the Puritan Boston preacher predicted the end of the world in 1697), the Times describes the “dizzying” and “strange” alliance between the Pioneer Institute, a conservative, Koch Brothers-funded think tank that decries the Common Core and PARCC, in part, because they use an “unproven approach to teaching Euclidean geometry,” and the Massachusetts Education Association, which has waged a relentless campaign against the aligned tests in order to protect teachers from performance-based evaluations.

This morning AFT President Randi Weingarten issued a celebratory tweet in response to the article:
Randi Weingarten ‏@rweingarten
We warned that if Common Core were tied to high-stakes tests, it would fail. MA shows just how right we were 
Well, not exactly. Buried towards the end of the article is this:
“The new test [that Massachusetts will design at the cost of “an extra year and unknown millions of dollars”] will use Parcc content, which better reflects the Common Core, but the state will maintain the flexibility to change or add material without having to go through a committee of multiple states. 
[Mass. Commissioner of Education Dr.Mitchell] Chester said Massachusetts would remain in the Parcc consortium so it could compare results with other states.”
In other words, Massachusetts will continue to use Common Core standards. And the aligned annual student assessments will look an awful lot like PARCC.

Still, the article is worth reading in its entirety because it captures that “strange alliance” between ultra-conservatives and “progressive” unionists, as well as some of the distortions of reality that accompany this campaign against higher standards and accountability.

For example, Tom Scott, executive director of the state superintendents’ association, which supports the standards and assessments, notes that “it’s much more about politics than it is about education.” In concurrence, Barbara Madeloni, head of the state teachers’ union, rejoices that “We’ve really flipped the narrative in a year." For more on her approach towards educational leadership, see this article last year in the Boston Globe, which includes her bizarre equation between standardized tests and “white supremacy,” a link that would no doubt raise eyebrows among education advocates of color, including the nation’s major civil rights groups who uniformly support annual assessments.

Here’s the bottom line: Massachusetts, long a beacon of high standards and accountability, will still have high standards and accountability. But the politicized assault on PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and college/career ready standards by figures as divergent as labor leaders and free market advocates will burden taxpayers and muddy Massachusetts’ reputation as a leader in public education.

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