BOSTON — High-stakes high school testing came under fire Tuesday as teachers, parents and a slew of lawmakers
spoke out in favor of suspending the use of standardized testing as a graduation requirement, voicing concern over
a “testing culture” that puts undue pressure on students with minimal reward.
The Baker administration faces a decision later this year on whether to scrap the long-running MCAS exam in
favor of a new test — the PARCC exam — tied to the national Common Core curriculum standards. Some school
districts over the past two years, have been piloting the new exam, which education officials say will offer a better
gauge of preparedness for college.
Dozens of House and Senate lawmakers from both parties, however, have signed on to legislation that would
impose a three-year moratorium on the implementation of the PARCC exam, and suspend the use of MCAS results
as a graduation requirement or in evaluating teachers, schools and districts.
Rep. Marjorie Decker, the sponsor of the main testing reform bill (H 340), said students are being put under
extreme pressure to pass a standardized test that has not proven it can improve performance of students in lowincome
districts or prepare them for college.
The Cambridge Democrat, along with 53 House and Senate lawmakers who co-sponsored the bill, are calling for
the state to “take a deep breath” and set up a new Education Reform Review Task Force to evaluate the use of
mandatory students assessments.
Saying that she “bombed” every standardized test she took in school, Decker said, “I didn’t experience success until I was in college when standardized testing was no longer the measure of whether I was smart.”
The Joint Committee on Higher Education was forced to relocate its hearing to the larger Gardner Auditorium after hundreds of teachers, parents and advocates showed up to testify or listen. Many in attendance wore stickers that read: “Less testing; More Learning.”
Some teachers testified against the bill, arguing that standardized tests have been an effective motivator for students, helping to teach them perseverance when they encounter struggles knowing that they must overcome those challenges in order to graduate.
Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester also spoke out against the bills, calling them a “step backward” for Massachusetts that could jeopardize as much as $200 million in federal Title I funding to the state. Chester said if the bill passed the state’s current waiver from No Child Left Behind could be in jeopardy, either costing the state millions of federal dollars or flexibility in how they spend that funding.
Chester said Massachusetts’ resolve over the past 22 years to remain committed to the standards of the 1993 education reform law is one of the main reasons why student performance has gone from “strong to the strongest in the nation.”