A public hearing on high-stakes testing drew a large crowd to the Malden High School auditorium
on Nov. 16. Kalpana Guttman, bottom left, a literacy specialist in the Newton Public Schools,
received a round of applause from the audience when she suggested that BESE members should
take the PARCC test before voting. Malden High School teacher Jessica Haralson, bottom right,
was among the MTA members holding signs outside before the hearing began.
Photos by Jair Mendes
Please turn to Speakers/Page 4
By Laura Barrett
D espite opposition from many educators, parents and school committee members, the Board of Elementary and Secondary
Education voted 8 to 3 on Nov. 17 to adopt a new
PARCC-infused MCAS test starting in 2017.
An amendment was adopted to hold schools and
districts harmless based on the results of the 2017
“Educator and parent advocacy led the
commissioner to back off from his long-term explicit
support for PARCC,” MTA President Barbara
Madeloni said after the BESE meeting. “But no one
is fooled by the shell game of hiding PARCC inside
the so-called MCAS 2.0. This decision continues
the destructive practice of distorting the purpose of
teaching and learning through an obsessive focus on
standardized test results.”
Thousands of member e-mails were sent to
BESE members expressing the MTA’s support for
a three-year moratorium on all high-stakes use of
tests and opposition to the adoption of PARCC.
In addition, educator advocacy caused school
committees in more than a dozen communities and
the Boston City Council to approve MTA-backed
resolutions in favor of a moratorium.
Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester had
proposed the hold-harmless provision just for districts
that administer PARCC in the spring of 2016. The
BESE voted 7 to 4 to also hold schools and districts
harmless based on results from the new test.
T he three members voting against the overall plan were, notably, the members representing teachers, students and parents: labor
representative Ed Doherty of AFT Massachusetts;
student member Donald Willyard, chair of the State
Student Advisory Council; and parent representative
Mary Ann Stewart, who is on the board of the
Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association.
Representatives of business and other interests voted
in favor of the plan.
Willyard, the only BESE member young enough
to have experienced test-driven education firsthand,
said, “I can and should be impeached if I go against
how the students feel about this particular issue. I
learned that we go to school to learn; unfortunately,
that isn’t the case anymore. I’m going to school to
pass, and that’s unacceptable to me.”
Board Chairman Paul Sagan, former president
and CEO of Akamai Technologies, opposed the hold-
harmless extension, contending that it would mean
backing away from “our obligation” to hold adults in
the system accountable.
Secretary of Education James Peyser, Governor
Charlie Baker’s representative on the board, was
also strongly against extending the hold-harmless
provision for another year.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary
Education must now contract with a testing firm to
develop the so-called “next generation” MCAS tests.
Most of the test items will be taken from the bank
of items created for the PARCC Consortium by the
giant testing company Pearson.
Districts that administered PARCC in 2015
will have to administer it again in 2016, while the
rest will have the option of administering MCAS
or PARCC. The 2016 MCAS test will contain some
A paper version of both tests will be available
for the next three years, but the commissioner said
he expects all districts to be administering the tests
online as of 2019.
Through the class of 2019, students will
continue to be required to pass the grade 10 MCAS
English language arts, mathematics and science tests.
The DESE is also planning to develop a new
standardized history and social studies test, adding
a fourth subject to the increasingly unpopular
mandated testing load.