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Handful of Greenfield parents, teachers oppose PARCC

GREENFIELD — Of the handful of parents and teachers who attended the School Committee’s public hearing on standardized testing Wednesday night, all came out against the new PARCC tests.

“I’m not opposed to assessment at all,” said parent Deborah Keisch. “What I am opposed to is the high-stakes nature of these tests. They won’t help our students be anything more than good test-takers.”

The Greenfield School Committee has until Oct. 1 to pick whether students will take the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams or move to the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers in spring 2015.

If it doesn’t express a preference to the state by then, the state will slot the school district for MCAS, according to School Committee Chairwoman Mary Ellen Calderwood.

The committee has to decide which test students in grades 3 to 8 and 9 to 11 would take. Grade 10, through the class of 2019, will continue to take the MCAS.

The School Committee did not vote on the issue.

PARCC is a national exam designed to test the Common Core Standards, which the state adopted in 2010.

In November 2013, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education endorsed a two-year “test drive” of the new PARCC.

The test is designed to be more rigorous, test higher order thinking and prepare students for college and career readiness, Superintendent Jordana Harper said.

Under the current testing, many students went on to college and discovered they were not ready and had to take remedial classes at their own expense, Harper said.

Next year would essentially be a trial year.

Districts that choose to administer PARCC this spring will have their 2015 accountability levels held harmless, meaning that the district’s accountability level can only improve. It can’t decline from its 2014 level and schools won’t be penalized for lower scores on the more rigorous exam.

Less than a dozen parents and teachers attended the public hearing Wednesday night to offer input on their preference for a state test — a turnout Greenfield Education Association President Thomas Bevacqua lamented.

“My main concern is, here it is July 30, and we have a handful of Greenfield residents. I would highly recommend another meeting be held sometime out of the summer to get a much better representation of the community at large,” Bevacqua said.

New Greenfield Middle School teacher Gabrielle Nagy recounted how in her previous teaching position in Amherst, students took the PARCC as a PILOT school.

“We found we lost a vast amount of instructional time,” Nagy said. “We found the test wasn’t ready.”

The fifth-grade teacher recalled technical glitches that plagued the test takes, erasing completed work. She also said many Amherst students who did not have access to computers on a daily basis were at a disadvantage.

Harper reminded the public that last year’s tests were meant to test the test and participating schools did not receive any results.

“Whether or not the state adopts PARCC, it’ll adopt some type of testing and it’ll have more accountability standards and be more rigorous,” Harper said.

Harper has previously recommended that Greenfield students take the PARCC this spring when they won’t be penalized for scores to gain experience with the new test.

Many residents opposed PARCC out of distrust of the test’s maker, Pearson.

“(Pearson) writes the text books. We own lots of their text books,” said Suzanne Schropfer, a special education teacher at Greenfield Middle School. “It gives them too much control over what the children are learning.”

“I want students to learn to think critically — not just take tests,” said Deborah Keisch, a parent. “Pearson is part of the education reform agenda. I don’t want to give anymore money to this corporation.”

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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