From Susan Moynihan, Cambridge Public Schools employee, Jan. 14, 2016: In December the Cambridge School Committee voted to switch from the MCAS to the PARCC test. Cambridge schools have been told they will be “held harmless” for their first set of PARCC results, but I wonder if the amount of testing to which our children will be subjected will be “harmless” in their education.

LetterIn May, the city’s third-graders will have three days of English-language arts PARCC testing for 90 minutes, 75 minutes and 90 minutes on consecutive days. They will be expected to do a “literary analysis/literary short passage set,” a “research simulation task” and a “narrative writing task/informational long passage set.” Also in May they will have four tests on math that are 60 minutes each.

These children are 8 or 9 years old. The test is very, very difficult. (I encourage you to put yourselves in the shoes of a third-grader and take the third-grade practice test.) Some children will succeed at the test, but many children will bury their heads in their arms in despair. Many will cry. Many will give up, feeling like failures.

The testing time increases for fourth- and fifth-graders to 90 minutes for every English-language arts test. Fifth-graders also have to take the science MCAS, which is two sessions of untimed testing.

Isn’t it time to take a step back and ask if testing is really helping our children to grow into life-long learners and good citizens?