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Tewksbury Quickly Becoming Ground Zero For Debate Over Common Core/PARCC

Sep 18, 2014 04:35PM ● By Bill Gilman
In the late 90s, the new MCAS exams became a lightning rod for debate over issues such as education funding, state mandates, the role of government in setting education standards and the value of standardized testing.
Fifteen years later, the debate raging over the Common Core standards and the associated Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing makes the MCAS furor look like a friendly disagreement.
Earlier this year, the Tewksbury School Committee voted, 3-2, to become one of the Massachusetts school districts taking the PARCC testing out for a "test drive" this year. At its meeting Wednesday night in the TMHS Library, Assistant Superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan provided an update and an outline for how the testing would be implemented.
PARCC testing will be given to students in grades 3-8 using paper testing forms and to students in Grade 9 and Grade 11 using computer-based tests.
Because of state requirements for next three years, students in Grade 5 and Grade 8 will still take MCAS science tests and students in Grade 10 will take MCAS English/Language Arts and Math tests as a graduation requirement.
According to Theriault-Regan, Massachusetts students in Grade 4 and Grade 8 are ranked No. 1 in the country in reading and math. Massachusetts 15-year-olds rank near the top internationally in the those subjects. However, she said that more than one-third of Massachusetts high school graduates, all of whom passed MCAS, require remedial classes in either reading, math or both in college.
"This new assessment is more than just a graduation requirement," said committee member Dennis Francis. "It's a tool to prepare our students for what lies beyond (high school)."
Theriault-Regan agreed that the PARCC testing and Common Core standards will better help Tewksbury students be ready for college level work.
"Common Core is more rigorous and more demanding that (current) Massachusetts standards," she said.
But even as the Tewksbury School District was gearing up for PARCC testing, the Tewksbury Republican Town Committee was doubling down on its opposition to Common Core as a whole. On Wednesday, the TRTC sponsored a Stop Common Core Rally in Boston. Among those who spoke was state Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, who has been a leading opponent of Common Core in Massachusetts. In the spring, Lyons had tried to push through a budget amendment that would have, for all practical purposes, cut funding for Common Core in the Bay State. The amendment was defeated.
The TRTC has also placed an article on the warrant of the Oct. 7 Special Town Meeting, calling on Tewksbury to "opt out" of the Common Core requirements.

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