Parents, students, educators and social justice advocates call on legislators to roll back high-stakes testing

Carlos Rojas Alvarez

Students from under-resourced families are especially hurt by high-stakes testing, said immigrant advocate Carlos Rojas Alvarez.

BOSTON — Parents, students, educators and social justice advocates from across Massachusetts testified at the State House on June 11 in favor of bills that would curtail the use of high-stakes standardized testing in public education. The advocates are also meeting with legislators in their home districts and engaging in other actions locally to deliver their messages this week.

“High-stakes testing hurts all kids, but especially kids who come from under-resourced families and communities, including immigrant students and English language learners,” said Carlos Rojas Álvarez, representing the Student Immigrant Movement and Boston’s Youth on Board. “When tied to promotion and graduation, high-stakes testing contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline and unfairly targets students who need more support — not just more requirements — to succeed.”

“Low-income students of color are disproportionately affected when too much test preparation deprives them of the kind of rich and varied curriculum that we all want for our children,” said Juan Cofield, president of the NAACP New England Area Conference. "That enriched curriculum often leads to better academic performance."

Dozens of educators and parents spoke in favor of House Bill 340, which calls for a three-year moratorium on PARCC and the high-stakes use of MCAS. Other bills supported at the hearing would limit testing in different ways. Several would end the requirement for students to pass a test to graduate from high school; one would place a moratorium on the state’s test-based school accountability system; and another would codify that parents have a right to opt their children out of standardized testing.

“Our students are more than a score,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. Madeloni a former high school English teacher and teacher educator, said that “over the last 15 years, we have been inundated with the narrowest notions of what teaching and learning look like. We have allowed ourselves to be persuaded by rhetoric that silences teachers, students and parents — rhetoric that denies the reality of students’ lives, of what it means to be homeless, to live a life of economic frailty in a world still marred by racism.”

Tom Gosnell, president of AFT Massachusetts, said that “forcing students to spend hours and hours on test preparation does nothing to close the opportunity gap that students from low-income communities face. Students across Massachusetts need smaller class sizes and more time for programs that help them succeed — like music, art, athletics and social studies — not endless preparation for expensive standardized tests.”

Many of those testifying are members of the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, a new coalition of parent, community and labor groups that organized a Week of Action this week against high-stakes testing. On Monday, thousands of teachers and students wore stickers bearing the slogan “Less Testing/More Learning,” and local actions have been occurring throughout the state.

“Our current system rewards compliance rather than creativity,” said Todd Gazda, Ludlow’s superintendent of schools, in written testimony submitted to the Joint Committee on Education. “It inhibits creative professionals from taking appropriate risks with their lessons and practice because failure comes with severe consequences for both the individual and the school.”

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