SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 30, 2013

Board raises questions about kindergarten assessments

PEABODY — A pilot program designed to help teachers evaluate kindergartners has raised red flags for School Committee members concerned that their control is being usurped.

Specifically, they complain that the federal Common Core curriculum and its Race to the Top grants are forcing them into spending and projects they do not want.

Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment, or MKEA, is mandated by Common Core. It’s the first of a serious of programs expected to cover the system from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“It’s not a test; “it’s an assessment.” said Deb Murphy, the schools’ kindergarten coordinator at Tuesday’s meeting. She added that a “huge piece” of that assessment, which began early in the school year, involves the student’s “social and emotional environment.” The School Department has been required to provide kindergarten teachers with iPad Minis to help with the work and to ensure that observations and ideas aren’t forgotten in the rush of dealing with the class.

That information must be forwarded to Pearson Testing, which is responsible for evaluating it.

The committee offered no complaints about the aims of the program. But an alarmed Beverley Griffin Dunne noted that much data on Peabody children will be collected and shared with Pearson. She wondered if it would be used for purposes other than informing parents of their child’s progress.

“It does make me concerned,” she said.

She later commented on fears of who might have access to highly personal information.

“My opinion is that student data is confidential,” she said.

At the meeting, colleague Dave McGeney urged Griffin Dunne to “Follow your instincts. You know in your heart this is where it’s going. ... This is coming down the track clear as day.” He warned that the cost was sure to rise for Peabody. “It’s another example of the state giving us a grant, and it not only has strings attached, it has ropes and chains attached. ... I see the not-so-veiled threat if we don’t do this, we’re going to lose our grant money for kindergarten.”

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