Public Testimony

My written testimony
On June 11, 2015, Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education held a public hearing on several bills related to testing in K-12 public schools. I was unable to attend the hearing in person, but did submit testimony in support of H.340: An Act relative to a moratorium on high stakes testing and PARCC.

A panel assembled to speak in opposition of the bill included representatives from the Executive Office, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Board of ESE, in the persons of: Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester, Board of ESE Chair Paul Sagan, and a former Board of ESE member Jeff Howard. (Where available, I've linked each person's name to their testimony).

Note that at no time before or after the public hearing did BESE discuss any of the bills.

My testimony below.

Members of the Joint Committee on Education
The Honorable Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, co-chair
The Honorable Representative Alice Hanlon Peisch, co-chair
Sate House Public Hearing on Assessments
Room A-2 [the hearing was subsequently moved to the Gardner Auditorium in order to accommodate the high number of people who turned out for the hearing]

June 11, 2015

Dear Legislators,

My name is Mary Ann Stewart and I'm a parent of a high school student and two college graduates. Though I am a member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, I am speaking for myself and not as a Board member; my comments are my own.

I have been following, with interest, mounting concern being expressed about the impact high-stakes standardized testing and test preparation is having on our public school students, their schools and districts, and educators who teach and work in them. Leaders in every level of government, along with folks in neighborhoods across the state and country, are expressing a range of views stemming from a concern about these tests and their impact: On narrowing curriculum (especially in the weeks leading up to testing dates); on educator evaluation; on the increased time and money spent to administer them; on the over-reliance of high stakes accountability measures on schools and districts for state and federal dollars.

In many states, the concern rises because the impact of these tests coincides with the increased use/availability of technology and also the implementation of new frameworks for educator evaluation, a condition for many who hoped for federal RTTT dollars. In Massachusetts, in addition to the educator evaluation implementation, high stakes accountability measures intersect with the development of district determined measures, the RETELL initiative, and soon, perhaps, the PARCC assessment (or MCAS 2.0). These concerns impact schools, families, students, and districts in the toniest communities, but students in low-income communities of color are hit the hardest - and at a time when we are trying to close gaps.

We are working against our future best interests if allowed to continue with the current testing regime. We want our students to be excited about their future. We want our schools to truly impart a love and joy for learning. We want creativity in teaching - and so much more.

Before we launch the next generation of assessments in Massachusetts, let's not just keep doing what we've been doing since we ushered in the MCAS.

It's time to call for a moratorium on the high-stakes standardized testing era so that we can work together with our communities, schools, educators, policymakers and legislators to re-evaluate with an eye to improving our schools from the inside out, not from the top down.

Thank you for your consideration, courage, and commitment to our children,

Mary Ann Stewart
Lexington MA