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Core Values Or Rotten To The Core? Tewksbury Voters Have Their Say Tuesday

Oct 06, 2014 01:21PM ● Published by Bill Gilman

In the late 1990s, Massachusetts teachers and parents were almost universally opposed to the MCAS exams as the new state standards for education.
Teachers complained about having to "teach to the test." Administrators complained that test scores were being used to gauge the success or failure of the district, impacting grants and accreditation. Voke schools complained loudly that their students were being held to the same academic standards despite spending only half as much time in the classroom. And parents complained about the pressure being put on students, as passing MCAS was being used as a requirement for graduation.
What a difference 15 years makes.
In 2014, MCAS standards and testing are being lauded as a driving force behind Massachusetts students shooting to the top of national achievement rankings. And many Bay State parents and educators are using that success as the basis for their opposition to Massachusetts adopting the new federal Common Core education standards. Their reasoning is simple, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
But local supporters of Common Core argue that while MCAS served a purpose, Common Core raises the bar even higher and is needed to help Massachusetts students compete in the 21st Century college classroom and a global economy.
The debate over Common Core comes to Tewksbury on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m. in the Tewksbury High gymnasium, thanks to Article 17 on the Special Town Meeting Warrant.
The non-binding article, drafted by resident Ruth Chou, asks the Tewksbury School Department to reject Common Core and to not implement the PARCC testing that goes along with it. Instead, the article asks that the School Department maintain the MCAS testing and standards.
In a recent Letter To The Editor published in Your Tewksbury Today, Chou wrote about the need to maintain local control of education standards and not give over control to the federal government.
"Warrant article 17 gives the residents of Tewksbury a voice to air their concerns and their desire to maintain local control over their child's education," Chou wrote. "If Article 17 is adopted, it will send a message to other communities in Massachusetts that they are not alone in their opposition to Common Core and the federalization of education; and it will give them the courage to take a similar public stand to keep education local."
Chou is a member of the Tewksbury Republican Town Committee, which has been outspoken in its opposition to Common Core, since it began influencing Massachusetts Public Schools curriculums back in 2011. Last month, the TRTC sponsored a "Stop Common Core" rally in Boston.
At a recent School Committee meeting, assistant Superintendent of Schools Brenda Theriault-Regan offered a presentation on the Common Core curriculum, as well as the PARCC testing, which the School Committee voted, 3-2, to adopt this year as part of a national trial program. Regan 
disputed the notion that Common Core strips away local control and quoted information from the Massachusetts Department of Education.
"The federal government, through Race to the Top, encouraged states to adopt college- and career-ready standards, but it did not specify which standards. Common Core was created by states, and Massachusetts played a leading role," stated the MDEC information. "In addition, the Core outlines what students should be able to do at different grades. The standards do not dictate curriculum (how that knowledge will be taught), materials, or practices, all of which are up to districts, schools and teachers."
As to whether Common Core will help Tewksbury students reach higher levels of achievement, supporters and detractors, again, are diametrically opposed in their viewpoints.
"Common Core is more rigorous and more demanding that (current) Massachusetts standards," Regan said at a recent School Committee meeting. As to PARCC, School Committee member Dennis Francis said it had more to offer than MCAS.
"This new assessment is more than just a graduation requirement. It's a tool to prepare our students for what lies beyond (high school."
In her letter, Chou said there was no evidence available to back up those claims.
"Now that the Common Core standards and PARCC tests have been made available, there is no evidence that the Common Core standards and PARCC are close to being as good as the Massachusetts standards and MCAS respectively," she wrote. "The money required to implement these standards and assessments could have been better used to improve upon what Massachusetts already had while keeping local control of our educational system."
Regan and Superintendent of Schools Dr. John O'Connor have started that the costs associated with Common Core and PARCC are not prohibitive for Tewksbury.

For More On Common Core In Tewksbury:

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

Tewksbury Schools To Adopt Common Core Testing In 2015

LETTER: Stop Common Core In Tewksbury, Support Town Meeting Article 17

Breakdown Of Oct. 7 STM Warrant: Common Core Debate, Millions In Spending Items

 



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