Many in the education community are concerned that the increased amount of testing called for in the MSIP rules would result in lost instructional time in those subjects. End of Course exams for high school students, in particular, are expanding to more than a dozen subject areas. And the testing requirements are extremely onerous for small schools.
For example, Andy Turgeon, superintendent of the Knox County R-1 School District said,
"Every student at Knox County High School would have to take EOCs in three science disciplines: biology, chemistry and physics. But as a small school, Knox County doesn't offer enough sections of those classes for every student to take all three. [We] can't cut any classes, so the solution is to add more teachers. That would have an undeniable budgetary impact.
An expanded battery of tests would also narrow students' options for tailoring their education to their gifts and interests. Using the same example, students who don't excel in and don't plan to later study science would be forced to take numerous science classes anyway in order to meet assessment requirements."Also concerning is MSIP's decreased standards for areas like physical education and the arts which may result in some districts using those disciplines to offset their budget shortfalls. The Plan also prescribes standards for students as much as five years post-graduation. Fits rather nicely into the cradle to work tracking plan the Department of Education has been working on for decades, don't you think?
The term micromanaging is used in the business world to describe someone who takes oversight measures to the extreme. Instead of improving productivity and increasing work quality, the end result is usually frustrated workers and piles of unread paperwork. When considering all the additional reporting being required by DESE, SBOE and USDOE, one can't help but be reminded of the scene from the movie Office Space where various managers waste additional time reprimanding an employee for not including a standard cover memo on his TPS reports. (See a version of this scene here)
DESE REPRESENTATIVE: (in an exaggerated laid back tone) Mr. Superintendent I noticed that you haven’t had all your 10th grade students complete the chemistry assessments from the MSIP.
SUPERINTENDENT: Yes, I know. But we’re working on it.
DESE: Yeah, that’s good, but uh, we’re going to need you to give that assessment ASAP. It’s in the MSIP. You did read The Plan didn’t you?
SUPER: Yes, I read it, but you see our students already have full schedules so we are having to squeeze the chemistry curriculum into their PE time. Our teachers are working on a novel teaching game that uses the periodic table as a sort of basketball matrix so the kids earn more points if they shoot from the noble gases line than they do if they shoot from the metals. But we’re still working some of the bugs out of…
DESE REP: (interrupting) I see, but if you could just go ahead and give that assessment next week that would be great. And I’m going to go ahead and send you another copy of the MSIP and the reporting forms.
SUPER: But I’ve already got all that paperwork. It’s more a matter of time and budget…
DESE Rep walks off. Super sighs.
State Board of Education (SBOE) Rep enters
SBOE Rep: (in cheery voice) Mr. Superintendent, we need to talk about the chemistry assessment.
Super: (in exasperated tone) I know. I know. DESE was just here talking about that.
SBOE Rep: Um yeah, did you read the MSIP?
Super: I did. I neither understand the point of nor agree with the policy, but you put it in place anyway and I’m left figuring out how to make it happen and pay for it. But hey, thanks for stopping by.
There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to accountability. MSIP5 may have reached that point.
"It seems that we're taking choices away from our students and forcing everybody to be the same," Turgeon said. "That's not what we are."
Perhaps a more accurate statement would be, "That's not who we used to be." Common Core Standards are all about making everyone the same and taking away the potential for individual students to make what someone else has determined is "the wrong choice."
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Aug. 16. The board will receive DESE's recommendations for MSIP 5 a week before that. That gives DESE about three weeks to work in the revisions each Regional Advisory Committee recommended.