Springfield School Committee advocates against new MCAS guidelines

Sept. 20, 2022 | Matt Conway

Superintendent Daniel Warwick and Mayor Domenic Sarno discuss new MCAS requirements.
Photo Credit: Focus Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – Members of the School Committee expressed dismay with raises in MCAS testing requirements during the committee’s Sept. 15 meeting. New standards were approved by the state education board on Aug. 15, with the metrics impacting students from the class of 2026, or students entering their freshman year.

Superintendent Daniel Warwick considered the raised requirements a “surprise” considering the MCAS is already the most challenging standardized test in the country. In conversations with Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley, Warwick said that Riley stressed he did not recommend the change.

“I was really surprised at this time after these years with COVID[-19] we’d be talking about changing the requirements for a diploma when we already have the toughest test in the country,” said Warwick.

Mayor Domenic Sarno, who serves as chair of the School Committee, said the Springfield Public School district is a supporter of standards for schools. However, Sarno expressed that the heightened requirements come at a bad time as students are catching up with learning loss incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We agree with standards, we want standards, we push for standards, but they have to be realistic,” said Sarno.

Chief of Innovation, Strategy and Accountability Paul Foster showcased a presentation detailing how the raised requirements will impact students. With English language arts (ELA) requirements rising from a 472 score to 486, Foster shared that the new requirements negatively impact student’s performance levels within the district.

In an analysis of the 2022 MCAS data, Foster said the new standards would lead from 91 percent of students meeting MCAS proficiency levels in the district to 80 percent with the more rigid requirements. Additionally, the change would require an additional 159 students to retest or appeal to meet the ELA guidelines, while 162 more students would need an Educational Proficiency Plan after not meeting new proficiency metrics.

For the rise in biology standards from 468 to 470, Springfield Public School students would go from meeting standards by 64 percent to 60 percent. An additional 61 students would require an appeal or retest with the new metrics.

Vice Chair Christopher Collins said he is planning a legislative and contracts subcommittee meeting to discuss the matter. Collins shared that other districts have also expressed critiques with the new requirements. He views the subcommittee meeting as a chance for the committee to devise a plan for pushing back against the state’s decision.

“I’m hearing that other school committees are pushing back … I am going to hold a meeting to discuss that and then bring forward a recommendation to the committee about whether they think we should push back through our legislators,” said Collins.

School Committee member LaTonia Naylor also expressed concern with the raised requirements.

“When you look at the data, it’s scary. When you think about the capacity of what our staff already had to deal with and now to add this as another thing to deal with … that is just, really not good. I am still in shock that this passed,” said Naylor.

Warwick said he will be pushing against these standards when going statewide educational meetings.

“I think everyone needs to push back because this really wasn’t well thought out, and it’s really not coming from educators, it’s coming from people in politics who have an agenda,” said Warwick.

The School Committee will meet again on Sept. 29.

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