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A classroom outside Cambridge is equipped for  Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career testing in February. (Photo: Jeremy Brueck)

A classroom outside Cambridge is equipped for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career testing in February. (Photo: Jeremy Brueck)

Superintendent Jeffrey Young is recommending to the School Committee that Cambridge not use a new, controversial test called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career in the 2014-15 year and instead use the existing Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

While the topic has been on the agenda for the committee meeting for Tuesday, the superintendent’s recommendation was slipped into the meeting agenda without fanfare this weekend. The letter is dated June 3.

All Massachusetts school districts are required by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to choose which exam system they will use for the upcoming year; both tests are administered in the spring.

This year, 15 percent of all Massachusetts students were given a “field test” version of PARCC to help the makers refine it, including many Cambridge students. Next year has been designated another trial year. The state’s Board of Higher Education is due to decide whether the test will permanently replace MCAS statewide in the spring.

Superintendent’s reasoning

In his recommendation to the committee, Young considered “all the feedback we have received from staff and community members.” Among the several reasons he and his staff have arrived at this decision, Young quotes Cambridge Education Association President Chris Colbeth-Hess: “We are chasing assessments and initiatives as the means to improve student outcomes, instead of focusing on what we need to do in our classrooms to educate all students at high levels.”

“It is important for the School Committee to weigh in,” Young wrote.

He also expected more public comment at the Tuesday committee meeting, although his decision comes after considerable public discussion and controversy about the test from community members. Although the committee has not discussed PARCC vs. MCAS this year, last month the City Council passed a policy order resolution urging the state legislature to hold hearings to reconsider PARCC, citing “significant flaws” in the system.

In addition, a recently mounted parent-led MoveOn petition urging Cambridge to “Pause PARCC” has more than 400 signatures, including parents; school staff union head Colbeth-Hess; several district staff members, former and current; several education professors; author and lecturer on child education issues Alfie Kohn; and Cambridge resident, former public school parent and expert on child development and education Nancy Carlsson-Paige, among others.

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