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Eye On Education: Mass. Students To Pilot New Standardized Test

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) — We hear it all the time – American children are falling behind their peers in other countries. Now, there’s a push for new national standards for testing.

The educational overhaul going on in the country called the “Common Core” has become an ideological battlefield.

If you ask high school students who have been all the way through their school system about how they feel about standardized testing, they’re pretty frank.

Students from Arlington High responded with answers ranging from: ‘I don’t really like how it makes the teachers teach toward the test a little bit,’ to ‘I’m not a huge fan of them’ to the brutally honest, ‘They’re the worst!’

But now there’s another test coming called PARCC which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. More than one thousand Baystate schools will try it this spring.

“The PARCC will be a readiness assessment to determine if our graduates are ready for college level work,” says education secretary Matt Malone.

Malone supports piloting the test which is part of the federal government’s common core curriculum, a national set of academic standards with an emphasis on making sure students will be ready to go to work or college.

“Times have changed,” Malone said. “We have to hold kids to standards to ensure that we are allowing folks to know everything they need to know.”

But it’s not hard to find critics of the Common Core curriculum. Conservatives say it’s too much intrusion from Washington. Liberals worry it’s being rushed and that teachers haven’t been adequately prepared for it.

Criticism continues to grow as 45 states have signed on to accept Common Core standards beginning in 2010 but are now having second thoughts.

Even the country’s largest teachers union recently sent members a letter saying a “course correction” is needed and calling the roll-out “botched.”

Some opponents say forget about which end of the political spectrum you’re on – they don’t like the test itself.

“You’ve got a lot of federal pressure to go down this road so states have adopted it,” according to Monty Neill, the executive director of Fair-Test in Jamaica Plain. “We think that these tests are going to be really full of holes in terms of the quality of the test questions themselves.”

But what’s the danger if we get this wrong?

“The danger is we do serious damage to public education in this country and to kids who get miseducated because of this narrow focus on tests. We’ve spent hundreds of millions of our tax dollars creating these new tests that are going to be at best a very small improvement over the existing test,” he said.

Secretary Malone points out though, that the MCAS framework makes Massachusetts a good state to pilot the test. He insists he’s on board.

“I like the Common Core, it is a rigorous set of standards that is based on real world understanding,” Malone said.”We will be having discussions as we learn from this field testing, is this assessment better than MCAS? and then if there is, there will be a discussion about whether we adopt it. That is where we are right now, we are in this great state of trying things on.”

Some Massachusetts students will take the test online this spring, others with booklets and pencils. Many will take the new test in addition to the MCAS.

WBZ-TV will follow the results and let you know if the state Board of Education decides to embrace the new test for us in 2015.

If you have an Eye On Education story for Paula Ebben, email her at Eyeoneducation@WBZTV.com or contract her on Twitter @PaulaEbbenWBZ

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