By Louise Carpenter

On January 30, Senator Patricia D. Jehlen (Second Middlesex District) hosted a briefing at the Massachusetts State House to introduce the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment (MCIEA) to the state legislature. The briefing was sponsored by the 2015-2016 Senate Special Committee on Innovative and Alternative Education. Senator Jehlen, leaders of MCIEA, and key partners introduced the newly launched initiative and discussed how their work will redefine the way we measure student learning and school quality in Massachusetts. MCIEA is a partnership of six MA public school districts and their local teacher unions from Attleboro, Boston, Lowell, Revere, Somerville, and Winchester.

Senator Jehlen kicked off the event with a brief introduction, speaking to the importance of assessment reform to benefit schools and students. “Though Massachusetts has been an innovator in many aspects of education, it has yet to innovate in the way it measures the progress of students and the quality of schools due to the one-size fits all accountability required under NCLB and Race to the Top,” observed Senator Jehlen. “Now that those restrictions have been lifted at the federal level, the Commonwealth has an opportunity to explore creating and utilizing broader and more accurate measures rather than high-stakes multiple choice tests in essentially two subjects.”

Judy Evans, Superintendent of Winchester Public Schools and member of the MCIEA Governing Board, affirmed Senator Jehlen’s statement. “MCIEA is taking a look at multiple factors to assess how well schools are doing, with the goal of not just holding ourselves accountable, but working on continuous improvement. This very careful work by this group of six districts, which I hope will expand, will net huge rewards for the participants. We will learn from and with each other.”

Erik Fearing, President of the Revere Teachers Association and co-chair of the MCIEA Governing Board, was next to speak about how MCIEA will measure the quality of participating schools. “We want to make sure that every school can reach a mark of proficiency, and can reach the goals that their communities set for them. And we want to make it clear that this goes beyond just a test score.”

Jack Schneider, professor at the College of the Holy Cross, followed Mr. Fearing to discuss MCIEA’s School Quality Measures framework, which includes multiple academic, social-emotional, and school culture measures. Professor Schneider explained that the consortium’s work “is rooted in the idea that school quality cannot be captured fully or fairly by standardized test scores.” Data, he observed, “can do a great deal to inform a school’s stakeholders and to strengthen educational outcomes, but only if those data are valid, comprehensive, and clear.”

Dan French, Executive Director of the Center for Collaborative Education, was next to introduce MCIEA’s new approach to assessing student learning that is focused on teacher-created performance assessments. “Performance assessments,” he explained, “are activities that allow students to show what they know and can do through real-world application. Students are given the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in ways that will be expected of them later in college, career, and life.” Teachers in MCIEA districts are participating in professional development institutes and school-based coaching focused on the creation of curriculum-embedded performance assessments.

The legislative briefing then transitioned to a panel discussion with MCIEA Governing Board members, featuring two superintendents and two teacher union representatives. The panel members spoke about why their district decided to join the consortium and their goals for rethinking assessment and accountability in their schools. As Adeline Bee, President of the Attleboro Education Association, put it: “We are all pushing to get these kids challenged, to ask them questions, to make them really think about the world out there, and to use the resources to solve problems. It’s not a test score; it’s so much more.”

Paul Tritter, Director of Professional Learning at the Boston Teachers Union, added: “We’re going to keep doing the work, and as we keep doing the work, we will show people about our students, about our teachers, about our schools, and about the great work that we can do by integrating real-world application and valuable assessment for learning and of learning.”


4 Responses to “Six Massachusetts districts launch consortium to bring alternative measures to schools”

  1. Paul Hoss says:

    What a crock. I can only hope there will be reasonable, rational and pragmatic citizens in these six districts who will step forward to debunk this load of subjective, progressive nonsense. It’s all a smokescreen to get more students in your districts to be awarded a FALSE high school diploma through questionable hoopla such as portfolios and performance assessments. All one needs to do is examine the composition MCIEA and their deleterious promise of alternative assessments to measure student growth/learning. The PRESIDENT of this “consortium” is none other than Barbara Madeloni, also president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the largest teacher union in the state. Ask yourself, what could possibly be her interest/incentive for forming/leading such a group? Could it possibly have anything to do with eliminating the state’s MCAS test, the linchpin for having made Massachusetts public schools the gold standard for the fifty states which rivals any and all other systems of public schools worldwide? Such a consortium has already introduced a bill on Beacon Hill to put a three year moratorium on the MCAS test. Again, why would anyone attempt to “fix” a system which is not only, not broken, but thriving? Among other scams, Mandeloni and the MTA are attempting to protect all teachers statewide, good or bad, from objective, quantifiable teacher evaluations. Wake up citizens of Boston, Winchester, Somerville, Lowell, Attelboro, and Revere. This group is falsely attempting to lure you into a false sense of security about how your students/schools are performing. It’s all a hoax.

  2. MarketMan says:

    Paul: I hear you and have my reservations, but Winchester is already doing well.. why would they be interested in making high school diplomas easier to obtain? I agree that Mass is doing well in education, but is it because of MCAS or in spite of? I ask honestly. I’m not a fan of standardized tests, but I also don’t have enough history in the state to know how well Mass was doing before MCAS. I read an article that said that Mass revamped it’s system about 20 years and has been a leader since. When was MCAS introduced?

  3. teacherman says:

    The Massachusetts Education Reform Act was passed in 1993. MA schools did pretty well but since MCAS and new frameworks were established 20 years ago, MA students and schools have seen scores, graduation rates, AP and SAT scores continuously improve. Testing isn’t only reason but it has been an important part of the success. Many if the people involved in this effort are well meaning but also oppose testing.

  4. Becky McCullough says:

    It wasn’t MCAS that improved academic performance in MA. It was the surge of money into the system and the idea that education mattered.

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