Ballot group sees MCAS 2.0 as bid to ‘mollify our movement’

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BOSTON — As Massachusetts school districts prepare for the MCAS 2.0 era to launch in the spring of 2017, ballot activists are pledging to undo the education standards behind one of the exams expected to influence the revamped student assessment test.

In November, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted on a new standardized assessment program for the state, choosing to develop a hybrid of the existing MCAS test and consortium-developed PARCC exam. The board on Monday afternoon plans to hold a meeting in Malden of its assessment committee, with an agenda to include an update on testing plans for spring 2016 and a review of a proposed working group process for the MCAS 2.0.

Secretary of State William Galvin on Friday confirmed that the End Common Core Massachusetts campaign had gathered 76,016 certified signatures, enough to keep its proposal on track for the 2016 ballot. The question would ask voters to rescind the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s vote in July 2010 to adopt the Common Core standards for math and English and to restore curriculum frameworks that were in place prior to that vote.

“We’re excited to be moving to the next phase of this campaign, because Massachusetts needs this ballot question more than ever. Our success at signature gathering shows that the people do not want Common Core or PARCC, and attempts to mollify our movement with an ‘MCAS 2.0’ option isn’t enough. We must move forward by rejecting Common Core and returning to what works,” campaign chair Donna Colorio said in a statement Monday. “We’re going ramp up our efforts to educate the public and the legislature, and hope they’ll pass our restoration of the pre-Common Core 2010 standards in to law.”

In Lynn earlier this month, Education Secretary James Peyser told the News Service he hopes those considering support for withdrawing from the Common Core education standards that undergird PARCC take a look at the new test and the standards developed by the state.

“I think they ought to at least look closely at what we’re doing and see if that satisfies their concerns because a big part of their concerns are the control and losing the state control and that’s what we tried to reassert through this recent action,” Peyser told the News Service during a tour of Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

Peyser said membership in the PARCC consortium, a Common Core group, no longer requires implementation of the PARCC test.

“At the moment we haven’t withdrawn from the consortium,” said Peyser, who said if the ballot referendum became law the state would no longer be part of the consortium and would not administer the PARCC test.

When she turned in the campaign’s signatures in early December, Colorio said that if the measure passed into law the hybrid MCAS-PARCC standardized test under development by the state would “not be valid.” Peyser told the News Service he is not sure that would be the case.

On Dec. 11, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester outlined “important updates” regarding the spring 2016 administration of the MCAS, including:

— Each MCAS test in grades 3-8 in English language arts and mathematics will be supplemented with a “small number” of PARCC items.

— In English language arts, one of the PARCC items will require students to write in response to text. The department suggested that districts “familiarize themselves with PARCC items by utilizing PARCC practice tests and released items from the 2015 administration.”

If the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker approve a law that satisfies the ballot campaign, the issue of education standards might not appear on the 2016 ballot. Legislative leaders to date have not given any indication that addressing the standards issue is a priority.

— Written by Michael Norton and Andy Metzger

Copyright State House News Service