Massachusetts – MTA thrilled by decision not to advance charters
Commissioner Mitchell Chester announced today that he will not be recommending that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approve the New Heights Charter School in Brockton or the regional Academy for the Whole Child Charter School, which was to be based in Fitchburg. This marks the first time in at least 15 years that no proposals for independently run charter schools will go to the BESE for a vote.
Both proposals were strongly opposed by MTA members in the affected communities and fellow educators throughout the state.
“We are thrilled by the commissioner’s decision not to advance the Commonwealth charter school applications in Brockton and Fitchburg,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “This was the right decision for the students and residents in these communities.”
In both Brockton and the region that would have been served by the Academy, teachers, school administrators, parents, local elected leaders and students came out in force against the charter applications.
They argued that the charter schools would offer nothing new and would drain resources from districts that have demonstrated success in serving the needs of their diverse student populations. They testified at public hearings and submitted reams of written testimony against the applications.
Get the full story at MassTeacher.org.
Pennsylvania – PSEA urges state legislators to fix the Keystone Exams
PSEA believes that using Keystone Exams as a high-stakes graduation requirement creates negative consequences for students and takes graduation decisions away from local school districts and educators who know students best.
PSEA Vice President Jerry Oleksiak and Cumberland Valley teacher Jake Miller delivered that message in their testimony before the House Education Committee at a Feb. 12 hearing regarding the state’s academic standards and the Keystone Exams.
“For years, PSEA has maintained that it is inappropriate to base high school graduation decisions on state test results rather than the complete academic record of a student over the course of his/her academic career,” Oleksiak said. “High-stakes exit exams are associated with increased dropout rates; narrowed curricula; decreases in student motivation to learn; and disproportionate harm to some of our most vulnerable students – those living in poverty, minority students, English language learners, and special needs students.”
Miller, an American History teacher, described the ways high-stakes exit exams can hurt the overall education of his students. “To the student who fails these exams, the fallout can be absolutely awful. Those who fail the Keystone are placed in remedial courses to ensure that they will pass the exam. Oftentimes, these courses come at the expense of elective courses – like art, technology education, agriculture, engineering, and more.”
Maine – Standardized testing facts
Nationwide testing costs $1.2 billion dollars. If the nation spent that same amount of money on teacher salaries, every teacher, according to the Brown Center on Education Policy, would receive a $550 raise.
According to fairtest.org, more than 800 four-year-colleges do not use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor degree applicants.
For the first time in Maine, students will take a new, unproven standardized test administered by a company called Smarter Balanced. The state Department of Education (DOE) is calling the test the Maine Educational Assessment or MEA. This is not the same MEA students used to take in years past.
Washington – Message to Congress: Less testing provides more time for students to learn
So here’s some good news: Congress is poised to finally update the controversial and flawed No Child Left Behind Act, also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). It’s the law that promotes over-testing students and punishing schools. Last fall, the law’s unrealistic testing requirements resulted in nearly every Washington school being labeled a “failure” by US Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Fortunately, Sen. Patty Murray, our senior US senator, is the lead Democratic senator working to update ESEA.
Sen. Murray needs to hear from you. Email her right now and urge her to help Congress get it right this time. By sharing your personal perspective with Sen. Murray, you can help shape the discussion in Washington, DC so the updated law actually helps our students and schools instead of punishing them.