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letters | tackling challenges in education

Chester doubles down on alarmism to go with excessive testing

Re “Fourth-grade test scores sound a warning bell” (Editorial, Nov. 15): If there are warning bells to be sounded in Massachusetts, it is about the inappropriate political use of National Assessment of Educational Progress scores to rationalize the excessive testing that the children of the Commonwealth are being subjected to. According to education expert Diane Ravitch, “NAEP is the only gauge of change over time, and it shows slow, steady, and significant increases.”

There is no evidence to indicate that any test results in Massachusetts indicate a pattern over time that can be labeled as “alarming.” That Mitchell Chester, state commissioner for elementary and secondary education, “suspects that the downturn in reading scores relates directly to the loss of elementary reading specialists” is not founded in fact or research. Suspicions are not evidence.

But what really worries Chester is that superintendents are beginning to wake from their complacency and challenge the purpose and legitimacy of this excessive, and tremendously expensive, testing. Superintendents, principals, curriculum directors, and teachers are alarmed at the conspicuous lack of careful planning around the hasty implementation of these tests. This haste has significant negative implications for teacher evaluation, too, and all of these factors are contributing to an unprecedented drop in morale among educators.

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Our children are not failing, public schools are not broken, and educators continue to work tremendously hard for all the students in the Commonwealth. Knee-jerk responses to small data samples are not at all helpful, and neither is Chester.

David Krane
Somerville

The writer is principal of the McCarthy-Towne School in Acton.