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Fw: Great School Committee meeting!

Great School Committee meeting!Jackie King of Mass. CARE sent out the following message this morning about an excellent presentation to the Cambridge MA School Committee last night. I put a few comments in brackets where I think you not from MA might not know what is being said.

Dear MassParents/Cambridge CARE,

We had a great turnout at the [Cambrige, MA] School Committee meeting last night! About 40 people came to support either the anti-MCAS [MA state test and its graduation requirement] or anti-Unz initiatives [Unz initiative is to end bilingual ed, as in CA and AZ, see below. About 20 parents, teachers, and students presented compelling and diverse testimony describing the damage the MCAS is doing to education and the danger it poses to the 47 percent of last year¹s tenth graders who have not passed. We called upon the school board to assert that Cambridge will continue to award diplomas based on local graduation requirements and regardless of MCAS scores. [CARE is pushing school committees across state to assert they will grant diplomas; one has done so, others soon may.]

School Committee member Alan Price has submitted such a resolution, and both Alice Turkel and Nancy Walser publicly supported it last night. (Alice was quite forceful and eloquent in her remarks about the need for Cambridge to follow this course.) One or two other members also seem open to considering it. The Mayor has already asked for a legal opinion on the resolution, which is expected to be sent to the school board members in the next few days.

The diploma-granting issue will be a formal agenda item at the School Committee meeting on Tuesday February 26. So please mark this date on your calendars and be prepared to come! (This is a great chance for those of you who were not able to make it last night. The more different voices they hear, the better.)

Many thanks to Josiane Hudicourt-Barnes, Alex Grabiner, Sara Freedman, Nancy Alech, Andrew King, Larry Ward, Monty Neill, Nella LaRosa-Waters, Judy Housman, Julie Craven, Larry Aaronson, Jonathan King, Gerry Bergman, Marla Erlien, Emma Lang, Jackie King, Cheryl Kennedy, and others who spoke in our support. (Sorry we did not get all the names.)

A number of parents, teachers, and students also spoke in opposition to the Unz ballot initiative, which would essentially end bilingual education in Massachusetts and open teachers and school committees to lawsuits for which they would be personally liable (if a native language was spoken in a classroom). Programs like those at the Amigos would be illegal under the new law. In an encouraging display of unity, many people who were at the meeting to testify on one issue also expressed their support for the other issue.

The School Dept reported at length on the MCAS scores. Once again, the reports and tables did not always clearly state the alarming nature of the situation in Cambridge. One key fact is that 47 percent of 11th graders, some 225 juniors, are currently at risk of being prevented from graduating because of MCAS. (This includes both those students who failed one or both of the math or English sections of the MCAS, and those students who did not take the test. Most in the latter category are immigrant students who were temporarily exempt because they have been in the country for less than three years, but will be required to take it eventually in order to graduate. Those students will have to face this difficult test with the added language barrier.) Another disturbing but not surprising trend (given the discriminatory nature of the test and who gets punished for the inequities in the society) was the stark achievement gap between racial and economic groups, a gap which widens as the students get older.

Our position is that the MCAS test does not carry out the intent of the Ed Reform Act, which calls for multiple assessments of competency for the frameworks curricula. The School Committee should continue to oversee the granting of diplomas to those who meet CRLS criteria and standards, which are quite high. The final issue may be arbitrated by the courts or by the legislature, but should not be left to the discretion of the pro-MCAS, pro-privatization, nine- member State Board of Education.