MTA leadership raises concerns, takes action to address PARCC "security agreement"

MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson sent the following message to MTA members on Friday, March 13, 2015:

Several members have just brought to our attention a disturbing issue concerning a “security agreement” that PARCC test administrators and proctors are being asked to sign. We asked General Counsel Ira Fader for an MTA legal opinion on whether members should sign this agreement.

We are sending along a link to his legal opinion as well as a link to the one-page security agreement that is part of a much longer PARCC Test Administration Manual. In addition, here is a link to the website with PARCC manuals and other materials.

A crucial conclusion in our legal opinion is that the security agreement is subject to collective bargaining: “If teachers are asked by the school administration to sign the document, they should decline to do so until local bargaining has been undertaken and completed. If they are directed by the administration to sign the document under threat of sanction, they should sign with a statement indicating that they have received the document but do not enter into the promises it entails.”

The agreement states, “Failure to abide by the terms of the agreement may result in an investigation that leads to sanctions including employment and licensure consequences, according to your state policies.”

It is unfortunate that we are getting this information to you so close to PARCC testing time, but we just found out about it ourselves, and we immediately notified local association presidents and have asked the Commissioner of Education to rescind the signing directive.

MTA field managers have prepared bargaining advice and a suggested demand letter that has been sent to local presidents.

This “security agreement” is yet another example of the ripple effects of the testing regime that is diverting valuable time and energy from teaching and learning to bureaucratic compliance.

We have several important concerns about it.

  • As noted, we believe that signing such a document is subject to bargaining.
  • This agreement is on PARCC letterhead but otherwise it is unclear who the parties to the agreement are. The school district as a governmental entity does not appear anywhere in the document. The link to the full document takes you to the Pearson website. Is this an agreement with PARCC? With Pearson? With the district? Who will enforce it and how?
  • In the past, test administrators have not been required to sign a comparable security agreement in order to administer MCAS. MCAS test administrators who supervise tests with certain accommodations have been asked to sign a “nondisclosure” agreement. This does not raise the same legal concerns as the PARCC Security Agreement.
  • At least some members have informed us that they have not been given adequate training and time to learn all of the protocols outlined in the Test Administration Manual, yet they are being asked to sign a document accepting responsibility for understanding all of those protocols.
  • At least some members have expressed concern that they will be held personally accountable for behaviors and circumstances that are beyond their control, such as the adequate functioning of technology and “ensuring” that students don’t cheat.

We realize that, with testing scheduled to begin Monday, some members may have already signed the PARCC security agreement. Such action by individuals does not constitute a waiver of the local’s right to bargain, nor do we believe that you have prejudiced your own rights as an employee. Please confer with your local association leaders about how to proceed.

We will keep you informed of further developments.