Educators across Mass and US react to #HollistonInnovates News Story

On Thursday, November 9, a story appeared on a local Boston television station highlighting Holliston innovative approach to classroom instruction. For those of you who may have missed it, the link to the broadcast story is http://www.fox25boston.com/news/mcas-test-backlash-has-local-superintendent-taking-new-approach/644744104


Over the course of the next several days educators shared this story across social media. Reactions to the story we’re both strong and immediate and, in testimony to the power of social media, came from as far away as Hawaii. I thought my readers might find both the content and the strength of the reactions noteworthy.

One Massachusetts educator wrote: “Someone once gave me a plaque that read: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men/women to do nothing.’ Congratulations [to Holliston] on your MCAS stance! The policy makers in [community name deleted] haven’t a clue regarding what’s involved in the testing process: computers for all, classroom/testing space to accommodate all students, untimed testing resulting in some students spending the whole day testing, MCAS, PARCC, MCAS Next Generation, etc. I believe in accountability but they’ve gone too far. Hope your opinion is endorsed by other brave educators across the state.”

Another Massachusetts educator wrote: I so appreciate your courage in speaking out regarding MCAS. Twice this past week, I mentored teachers who were enacting ineffective pedagogy and when I suggested more engaging approaches, they cited MCAS prep as the reason for their lesson plan. We need more [districts] like you[rs], who know how high stakes standardized tests diminish students, waste valuable resources, and lead to poor educational practices by educators.”

The educator from Hawaii referenced above wrote: “Recently I had the privilege of reading an article regarding the new approach you are taking in your schools in Holliston, Mass. You stated in regards to the “teach to the test” approach that was being used : “ I am taking off your shackles”. Simply brilliant! Your wonderful comments and pro-active strategies to improve your schools have even made headlines on our lovely island of O’ahu- and the praise is well deserved! I wish there were more public schools who were as open minded to change as you are- in supporting and listening to your teachers which will surely filter down to the learning that is accomplished by your students…. So I say to you- bravo for listening and what an exciting future your teachers and students have in their learning! Aloha!”

Here at home, a Holliston parent emailed and remarked: ‘I just wanted to reach out to say how excited I am to be raising 4 children in the Holliston schools after seeing this interview and reading these words from the on-line article: ‘If I can graduate students who leave Holliston High School with passion and commitment and focus on their future, who are able to work with others, communicate and collaborate, and problem-solve with others and have a good global perspective and have a view of what they want to do in life, I think, frankly, I'm serving them better.’"

What strikes me most about these reactions is their intensity. While I recognize that there are probably a large number of folks who reacted negatively to the story and just didn’t share those negative reactions, the message was clearly a hit with educators who share my frustration with the paralyzing impact that state-wide assessments have had on teaching and learning. Those reactions have only encouraged me to speak out more.

In the end, I may not be able to change educational policy at the national or state level, but I can have some indirect impact on what goes on in Holliston’s classrooms every day. We will continue to seek the balance between teaching content and skill development, not for the sake of test-preparation, but because we want the content we teach to be essential and the teaching methods we use engaging and student-centered.

And if our #HollistonInnovates initiative inspires other educators or other districts to follow our lead -- so much the better.

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