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The NBCSOS Supports Conscientious Objectors

The New Bedford Coalition to Save Our Schools (NBCSOS) supports the courageous educators who are standing on the shoulders of past movements in our history responsible for building a stronger democracy.

Fifty-two Cambridge educators and a teacher from Hull have embraced their role as “conscientious objectors” by telling their principals that they do not intend to administer MCAS tests this year. The tests add another layer of stress on top of a traumatic time without providing any useful results, they say.

In addition to these conscientious objectors, some educators in other districts have opted to take personal days so they don’t have to administer tests they don’t support, and others have participated in protests or informed families of their right to opt their children out of MCAS testing.

“The MCAS results won’t tell us anything we don’t already know this year,” said Sarah Rosenberg, an instructional technology specialist in Cambridge. “We interact with students daily in the classroom and assess both their academic and emotional well-being all the time. MCAS is a waste of time and resources. It should have been canceled by federal and state education officials. Since they didn’t have the courage to do what the vast majority of parents and educators know is right, we are taking it on ourselves to act.”

Rose Levine, a fifth-grade teacher at the Graham & Parks School in Cambridge, agreed. “In standing against testing and for deep, authentic, whole-child engagement and connection, we hope to shepherd our students to the other side of this crisis and beyond,” she said.

Deb McCarthy, a fifth-grade teacher in Hull, noted that her opposition to MCAS is shared by many others this year, including the major associations representing school superintendents, school committees and classroom educators.

“I have been resisting this test for more than 10 years now, and there is something really different this time around,” McCarthy said. “I cannot go ahead and administer this test in good conscience when so many agree that it is wrong. I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr. saying, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’ I can’t do what I believe is wrong simply because the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says I have to.”

McCarthy’s principal has informed her that she will be subject to disciplinary action for refusing to administer the test, even though the Hull School Committee, along with dozens of other school committees, passed a resolution calling for MCAS testing to be canceled this year.

As of today, no Cambridge staff have been disciplined for their actions, though the threat still looms.

Meg Moloney, a fourth-grade teacher at the Haggerty School in Cambridge, said that parents opted almost all of her students out of testing, leaving her free to teach them during the blocks set aside for testing.

“We have lost so much time this year, and so many opportunities to connect with our students,” said Moloney. “It is a far better use of their time to be learning, laughing, talking and supporting one another than to be taking a tedious standardized test.”

Betsy Preval, an English language arts sixth-grade teacher at the Cambridge Street Upper School, said that the tests do a good job of sorting students by race and class, but not of improving the quality of education they receive.

“At its core, high-stakes accountability testing is rooted in racism, classism and ableism,” she said. “The MCAS is not about educating youth or strengthening our public schools. It’s about ranking children. It’s about ranking schools. It’s the complete antithesis of sound teaching practices. Unfortunately, many families do not understand the insidious impact high-stakes testing is having on our schools because educators are punished if we speak up. Why would we trust the results of a test where educators are coerced into silence? I cannot in good faith teach my students about what it looks like to stand up against injustice while at the same time proctor a test that is designed to have many of them fail.”

In a letter to their colleagues, the conscientious objectors in Cambridge said that a Cambridge Education Association survey revealed that more than 90 percent of CEA members supported canceling the MCAS tests this year, a position publicly backed by the district’s school committee and superintendent.

“As educators, we have been speaking out about the devastating impacts of the MCAS test for years,” they wrote. “This year, many Cambridge educators felt that the administration of MCAS during a pandemic, when so many children are struggling with their mental health and trying to regain some sense of normalcy, was the final straw.”

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