F our college students speaking at a recent conference organized by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing —
Fair Test — described in detail the benefits of
having attended public high schools that focus on
projects, deep learning and authentic assessments
rather than standardized tests.
“It was a discussion-based high school,” said
Elliot Garcia, referring to the Urban Academy, one
of 28 New York Performance Standards Consortium
schools. Students in these high schools are absolved
from taking all but one of the New York State
Regents Exams required for graduation.
“I felt like my teachers cared about my
education,” Garcia said.
Garcia is now a junior at Bard College, where
he is majoring in computer science.
“When I got to college and we had to write
our first five- to seven-page paper, a lot of students
had a hard time,” he said. “I had no problem
because in high school I wrote so many papers and
I had learned to think for myself, not to get ready
for a test.”
MTA members were among those attending
the conference, “Beyond MCAS and PARCC:
Alternative Assessments that Work,” which was
held at the Mission Hill School in Boston on
March 21. Gina Garro, who teaches in Revere,
said she appreciated the chance to participate.
“I think we’ve moved too far away from
caring about what kids think about what they are
learning,” she said. “We ask them to find evidence
in the text, but we forget to ask them what they
think about what they are reading since that is not
on the test.”
The event was just one example of the MTA’s
collaboration with organizations and coalitions
involved in a wide range of education, labor and
social justice issues.
In addition to its work with Fair Test, the MTA
has a long-standing relationship with Citizens
for Public Schools, an organization that works
on testing, charter schools and other common
concerns. CPS researches issues, develops fact
sheets and other materials and helps parents and
other community members with activities such as
“take the PARCC” events for parents and teachers.
The MTA and CPS are exploring more ways
to involve parents and educators in meetings
with state representatives and senators in support
of bills that pause or reduce excessive testing
The MTA is also allied with several groups,
including Jobs With Justice and the Raise Up
Massachusetts coalition, that tackle social and
economic justice issues.
Raise Up Massachusetts ran the successful
“Yes on 4” ballot campaign for earned sick
time in 2014. The coalition also helped win an
increase in the state’s minimum wage law in the
Legislature and is now working on the Fight for
The MTA is also working with Raise Up
Massachusetts to explore avenues for creating a
more progressive income tax.
Meanwhile, the MTA, the American
Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, the
Boston Teachers Union and others recently
founded a new coalition of labor and community
groups. The coalition intends to identify, expose
and fight attacks on public education and to
support a positive vision that includes teaching
the whole child, adequate funding, social and
economic justice and increased respect for
“The MTA is powerful, but we have a big
agenda and are up against powerful forces,” said
MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “We increase
our strength when our work with other groups
helps us reach deeper into our communities to
organize for change.”
In addition to its work with
Fair Test, the MTA has a
with Citizens for Public Schools,
an organization that works on
testing, charter schools and
other common concerns.
“What is happening in Framingham is special,”
she added. “We are building something that is
sustainable and here for the long haul.”
Nelson Hernandez has two daughters at the
Brophy school, and Ortiz Collazo encouraged him to
attend a meeting of Voz de la Comunidad.
“We talked about our rights. I met other parents
and we talked about the schools. I learned a lot at the
meetings,” Hernandez said through an interpreter.
Huang noted that Hernandez has brought four new
members into the group.
The team of community organizers, parents
and teachers produced a long list of issues that they
see as interconnected: the over-testing of students,
bilingual education, immigration laws, wages and
All are ripe for conversation at Voz de la
In Everett, similar efforts are underway.
For the past two years, educators and
community organizers have examined how people
involved in public education, labor and immigration
issues could better support each other. The work has
reached into churches and community groups.
Edwin Argueta of Jobs With Justice calls the
result a “curriculum.”
“We want a series of ‘how-to’ lessons about
being an advocate — how to go before a school
committee, for example, and ask for more resources
for your school,” he said.
Everett Teachers Association President Kim
Auger said the partnership with Jobs With Justice
has made a big difference for educators working with
English language learners. Everett educators, she said,
are now better connected with parents in the city’s
Latino and Haitian communities, thanks to informal
drop-ins and “meet-and-greets” that help parents learn
about the schools and some of the issues educators
deal with aside from day-to-day classwork.
“I think that because this work is not affiliated
with the schools but is in the schools it has made a
big difference,” Auger said. She said that parents
who are new to the city — and perhaps the country
— are cautious about questioning elected officials or
administrators at first.
But the impact has been significant. More
parents are visible in the schools, and more educators
are better known in the broader community. The
ripples have brought better understanding all around.
“Through our work with JWJ, I personally have
had my consciousness raised about the issues facing
my students outside the classroom that make the
importance of education doubly important to them,”
Lahey remarked in his address at the Jobs With
He noted the challenges his students have
brought to his attention: transience; limited access
to food, clothing and shelter; cultural and language
barriers; and parents working multiple jobs to
support their households.
“In other words, in working with JWJ, I have
learned what should have been evident from the
start,” he said. “Your issues are our issues.”
Continued from previous page
‘We are building something that is sustainable and here for the long haul’
Photo by Chris Christo
“You have to deal with the whole child before
you can even start in on the curriculum,” says
Framingham teacher Ruthie M. Ortiz Collazo.