Chelsea Kline wants to end standardized testing in Mass.

  • Chelsea Kline delivers the commencement address during the Mohawk Trail Regional High School commencement ceremony in Buckland in June. Staff file photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 8/20/2018 5:55:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Chelsea Kline, candidate for state Senate in the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District, has announced a proposal to end the state’s standardized exams.

In place, she wants to create a grant to help school districts restructure how they measure students’ learning.

“No student should be prevented from graduating because of a test we know is a better measurement of their family wealth than their ability to learn,” Kline said in statement about her proposal. “Rather than support a testing regime that furthers the inequalities in our education system, we should spend the resources on empowering local public schools to focus on the needs of students.”

Kline, who leads academic and leadership programs at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, said she has mentored a lot of students who lacked confidence and felt they were not smart enough to get a higher education degree because of their Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores.

“More and more, schools are just teaching students to prepare primarily for standardized tests and not taking into account the different learning styles,” Kline said in an interview. “Having worked with so many low-income students with negative impressions of testing that turned them off from learning really is a heartbreak for me.”

Students — ranging from the youngest to adults seeking higher education — who do not have the financial capacity to put food on the table are at a disadvantage, Kline said.

“It detracts from their ability to score well on tests and it has a long-term negative impact on someone’s self confidence,” she said, adding that the current testing system leaves out special education and students learning English as a second language.

Her proposal calls for redirecting the $32 million slated for the MCAS to what she calls “student-centered” approaches to education.

That would include using $2 million redirected to the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovation in Education Assessment to “develop a more fair, accurate, and locally controlled accountability system,” according to her proposal statement.

“People have talked for a long time about updating and reforming Chapter 70 money. We need to update the state’s foundation budget in a way that reflects the needs of all our students,” Kline said.

The consortium, formed in 2016, seeks to create school models that increases measurement for student engagement, achievement and mastery of content and skills in the classroom.

“We can open schools up to be more innovative, responsive and inclusive,” Kline said. “We can start by asking fundamental questions about what we want our learning outcomes to be and work backwards from there.”

She also proposes to redirect $30 million from MCAS funding for a Whole Child Learning grant program for school districts in the state. These grants would fund social workers, social and emotional learning programs, special education programs, English language learning programs and programs to support low-income students.

“So many people say they want their students to leave schools as critical thinkers and compassionate citizens, but those are not taught or measured by tests,” Kline said. “I think we need to be having deep conversations about the way our schools are doing and how they can best serve our students. Not just by having them memorize or cram for a test, but really educating the whole child and all our children.”

Kline, a Democrat, is the only ballot candidate for the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District state Senate race but is challenged by write-in candidates Ryan O’Donnell, Northampton City Council president; Steven Connor, director of Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services; Jo Comeford, former campaign director.

The primary is Sept. 4.

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