By Laura Barrett
T he movement against high-stakes testing is picking up steam, both in Massachusetts and across the country.
After a highly successful Week of Action
promoting a Less Testing/More Learning campaign
in June, MTA members and the Massachusetts
Education Justice Alliance are planning new
actions for the coming year, including promoting
a moratorium on testing, fighting adoption of the
PARCC tests and supporting parents who want to opt
their children out of taking high-stakes standardized
As members develop their action plans, they can
be confident that much of the public is with them.
A national PDK/Gallup poll released in August
is making waves. It shows that a significant majority
— 64 percent of Americans and a similar proportion
of public school parents — now believe there is too
much emphasis on standardized testing. An even
larger percentage — eight out of 10 respondents —
said that students’ engagement in their classwork and
their level of hope for the future are better measures
of school effectiveness.
“Parents and educators must work together to
support the schools our students deserve and end
the destructive impact of high-stakes testing,” said
MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “These tests are
narrowing the curriculum, taking time away from
more meaningful education activities and taking the
joy out of learning. Our students are more than a
Those messages were delivered in local
communities across the Commonwealth and at the
State House during the Week of Action, which began
D uring that week, thousands of educators wore Less Testing/More Learning stickers and posted messages on social media.
Toward the end of the week, an overflow crowd of
250 supporters of the testing moratorium packed a
State House hearing in support of House Bill 340,
filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), which
calls for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes
The night before the State House hearing, nearly
as many attended a PARCC forum in Bridgewater,
most of them opposed to switching to the new test.
“We are at the beginning of a marathon, but we
are on our way,” Madeloni said.
This fall, MTA members will continue to engage
in grassroots efforts begun last spring in support
of H. 340. Some local associations are asking their
school committees to pass a resolution in favor of
the moratorium, while others are holding community
forums, film screenings or “take the test” events.
In addition, Madeloni and MTA Vice President
Janet Anderson sent a letter in July to state education
officials informing them that the MTA Board of
Directors had voted to oppose the PARCC tests and
that in May, delegates at the MTAAnnual Meeting
overwhelmingly supported allowing parents to opt
their children out of high-stakes standardized tests.
Currently, there are different opinions about
the legality of opting out. Nothing in state law
specifically requires that students take standardized
tests. However, Education Commissioner Mitchell
Chester has argued that schools are required to assess
student performance, and therefore students must
take the tests.
Despite that view, Chester has advised district
leaders that if a student refuses to take the test,
“the principal should see to it that the student is
engaged in an alternate education activity and is not
Madeloni said, “The question is not one of
legality. It is one of taking a principled stand. Test
data is being used as a weapon to undermine public
education, our educators and our community schools.
Opting out is a critical tactic with which to stop the
destructiveness of corporate reform. We stand ready
to inform and support parents and students who want
Although the opt-out movement has been
relatively small in Massachusetts, it is significant
in other states, with more than 200,000 students
in grades three to eight — or 20 percent of those
eligible — opting out in New York state alone.
Carol Burris, a former New York principal
who was recently named executive director of the
Network for Public Education Fund, was active in
her state’s parent-driven movement to opt students
out of the tests. The tests were developed by Pearson,
the same company that is creating the PARCC tests.
“Three years of data make it crystal clear that
the New York State Education Department is giving
inappropriate tests, which are, for most students, a
prolonged and arduous exercise in multiple guess,”
Burris wrote in The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, a growing number of school
committees are passing a resolution posted on the
MTA website describing the harms of too much
testing and urging the Legislature to approve the
moratorium. The MTA is encouraging locals to ask
their members to sign a petition in support of the
G reg Reynolds, president of the Hampshire Regional Education Association, described how his local went about the process,
building strength and gaining a greater voice in local
education policy in the process.
“Even before the resolution, we made a
commitment as an association to start increasing
communication with different stakeholders,
particularly our School Committee,” Reynolds said.
“The primary reason was to engage the School
Committee in dialogue about what’s important to
teachers and education in general.”
The HREA persuaded the School Committee
to accept reports by the union five times a year
containing information on positive developments
in the classroom and addressing concerns in the
six-town regional district. Once each report is
received, the union and School Committee will share
ideas with each other and with community residents
at the next School Committee meeting.
A large crowd of activists turned out at the State House on June 11, forcing a hearing on
education bills to be moved from a small room to the much larger Gardner Auditorium. The
speakers included numerous MTA members and other supporters of a bill to place a moratorium
on the high-stakes use of standardized testing.
Photo by Scott McLennan