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Lissa Pierce Bonifaz: Standardized tests got you down? Consider opting out

Last modified: Friday, February 05, 2016

The Amherst Regional school system was recently notified that its students would take two high-stakes, standardized tests this spring.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) for third to sixth grade will be augmented with items from another standardized test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC). The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stated in December that these items will be added “… in order to help make statewide comparisons easier and to offer students and staff the opportunity to experience PARCC items while the new assessment is being developed.”

Yet the department is giving elementary school teachers little notice or extra time to review this “newer” version of the test, which differs significantly from the previous assessment. One of the most obvious differences between MCAS and PARCC is that students will be “time-tested.” This means students will have limits on the time they can spend on each writing task.

Timing students raises stress and diminishes their ability to concentrate. Writing prompts are rarely used in today’s classrooms with time constraints. Yet because of PARCC’s requirement for timed tests, teachers will need to work with their students on how to manage their time wisely, keep calm and stay focused.

I am an educator and a parent who every day witnesses the consequences standardized tests have on our children, their curriculum and their community.

As an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, I have proctored the test for tenth graders and can testify to the cultural and linguistic biases inherent in its design, especially as it pertains to English Language Learners (ELLs) and students with special needs .

And as a concerned parent, I witness the harmful impact these tests have on our school as test dates loom. I am considering telling my daughter’s school she will not to take part in MCAS or PARCC this year. I want to take a stand against this unfair measure of school success. It would be an act of dissent with repercussions for her school “rating” if less than 95 percent of the students take MCAS and PARCC.

Nevertheless, by opting out, I can show the state that I believe in the teachers at my daughter’s school to instruct her and evaluate her progress. We do not need a “one-size-fits-all” test with inherent biases haunting her curriculum, her desire to learn and her graduation from high school.

If standardized testing cannot measure her accomplishments at school, why are we giving this power to the state?

Join me in learning more about the Opt-Out movement on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Jones Library in Amherst, and visit and

Lissa Pierce Bonifaz holds a Ph.D. in bilingual education and lives in Amherst.


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