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Heartened by signs state is taking hard look at testing

At long last, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is taking a much-needed step back to examine whether the state’s appetite for standardized testing is proving detrimental to teachers and students (“Evaluate MCAS, but don’t abandon tests,” Editorial, Nov. 18)

The National Institute for Student-Centered Education has been encouraged by Matthew Malone, the state’s education secretary, and Margaret McKenna, chairwoman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, both of whom have questioned how testing is being handled in school districts. From what we heard last month from more than 300 educators at our conference, it is indeed, as Malone said, “assessment gone wild.”

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It is therefore a great relief that Mitchell Chester, commissioner of elementary and secondary Education, has reversed his position on tying teachers’ licensure to, among other things, their students’ test scores.

These actions are long overdue. We agree with the Globe that, when “used correctly, tests are not the enemy.” There is no question that core academic knowledge and skill mastery are important platforms for assessment and can be of great use in creating a collective vision of what a good education should include. However, they are only one piece of an honest evaluation of what, and how, our children are learning.

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Our institute urges state leadership to engage in discussions about alternative, student-centered assessments that take into account each child’s individual circumstances, each teacher’s classroom dynamic, and each school district’s resources.

Theodore H. Wilson III

Executive director

National Institute for

Student-Centered Education

Winchester

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