PARCC vs. MCAS

CommonWealth‘s new fall issue set the table for the debate over whether to scrap the use of MCAS in Massachusetts schools in favor of the new Common Core-aligned PARCC test, and now the debate has fully engaged, with the Boston Globe devoting the entire two pages of its opinion section to the topic.

The Globe editorial page weighs in with a full-throated endorsement of a move to PARCC. The paper applauds the fact that the test challenges students to think more deeply and says the sort of reasoning it requires will help reduce any classroom impulse to “teach to the test.”

“The only prepping for PARCC is great teaching,” Lindsay Sobel, director of the Boston nonprofit Teach Plus, tells the paper.

Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute has an equally full-throated argument in favor of keeping MCAS. Meanwhile, Globe columnist Joanna Weiss digs into the approach to math in Common Core and PARCC, ultimately concluding there’s a lot that’s good about it, but worrying about flaws in its execution.

Stergios points to a new study released last week that shows MCAS is as good at predicting college readiness as PARCC. He says there will be pressure, if Massachusetts joins the multi-state consortium using PARCC, to reduce PARCC’s rigor to accommodate lower-performing states. Moreover, he says, adopting PARCC “locks Massachusetts” into the Common Core standards the test is based on, curriculum frameworks that he says are inferior to those Massachusetts had in place prior to 2010.

Weiss seems to be rooting for PARCC and Common Core, but laments the fact that they can be their own worst enemy. Channeling a critique that has also been offered about some earlier-grades PARCC tests in English language arts, she worries that some of the very different approaches to math in the PARCC test and new Common Core standards has been made unduly complicated. It’s a shortcoming, says Weiss, that can unfairly frustrate kids, while it has helped seed some of the backlash against the test from parents, who find themselves frustrated at being unable help their children with fifth-grade math questions.

The impending vote next month by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on which test to use is taking on the feel of a full-fledged election campaign, complete with newspaper endorsements. Last week, the Herald weighed in and urged the state to stick with MCAS, asking Gov. Charlie Baker and Education Secretary Jim Peyser, both former leaders of the Pioneer Institute, “an astute critic of the Common Core,” to “help sidetrack this wreck-bound train.”

MICHAEL JONAS

 

BEACON HILL

Reacting to a judge’s ruling last week that former House speaker Tom Finneran is entitled to his state pension despite his federal conviction for lying under oath in a redistricting case, Adrian Walker concludes that Beacon Hill pols always manage to have the last laugh. (The state Retirement Board could, however, appeal the ruling.) (Boston Globe)

Another bill to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts is filed. (Telegram & Gazette)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Globe investigation finds that some Boston city councilors pushing hardest for a hefty pay raise seem to clock light hours. A chief offender appears to be long-time at-large councilor Steve Murphy, who spent weeks of the last two winters at his Florida condo while his constituents were buried in snow.

The city of Lawrence settles a lawsuit brought by a Florida Christian nonprofit alleging discrimination in the allotment of meeting rooms. (Eagle-Tribune)

MARATHON BOMBINGS

Jess Kensky, who lost both legs, and Patrick Downes, who lost one, move forward as they work to put their lives back together, 2½ years after the Boston Marathon bombings. (Boston Globe)

CASINOS

A Jewish temple in Brockton that is closing ended its Bingo game after nearly 40 years, bringing the number of houses of worship hosting the once-popular game to just a handful in the South Shore region. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

US Rep. Seth Moulton raised the most campaign money among the state’s delegation in the most recent quarter, according to FEC reports, but Rep. Richard Neal tops the field with most cash on hand, sitting on $2.7 million. (GateHouse)

The governor of Hawaii declares a state of emergency to deal with homelessness. (Time)

“Pathetic” is what The MetroWest Daily News calls the failure of Congress to get a transportation infrastructure funding bill passed.

ELECTIONS

Attorney General Maura Healey wades into the Boston City Council elections, endorsing two candidates looking to knock off incumbents: Andrea Campbell, who faces veteran district councilor Charles Yancey, and Annissa Essaibi-George, the sole challenger running for one of four citywide seats. (Boston Globe)

Unions are taking their time in endorsing presidential candidates. (Salem News)

The candidates for mayor of Chicopee answer MassLive questions about road repair issues.

It’s Election Day in Canada, where disenchantment with the ruling Conservative Party could spell an opening for the socialist New Democratic Party or the more moderate left-of-center Liberal Party. (Christian Science Monitor) The Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, the 40-something son of the late former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is leading in the polls. (The Guardian)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Herald‘s Jessica Van Sack says the Boston area should capitalize on the cost-of-living exodus of wired workers from Silicon Valley by rolling out the welcome mat here, including reinstituting rent control in Boston and Cambridge. That seems a generally far-fetched idea, but even more so when she says there should be “a special focus on freezing rents for middle-income residents and tech newcomers.”

Not all restaurant owners and wait staff are keen on the new idea (in the US) of raising menu prices and wages and doing away with tipping. (Boston Globe)

The increasing number of essay lotteries to win properties or businesses can bring headaches for both the buyers and sellers from disgruntled losers. (New York Times)

Walmart‘s cultural and investment shifts — ceasing sales of Confederate flags and assault rifles, supporting gay rights, raising its minimum wage, pouring billions into boosting its online presence — has investors wary as the stock value of the world’s most profitable retailer has dropped 30 percent so far this year. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

A sulfurous set of chain-reactions has roiled the chemical engineering department at UMass Amherst, which has been riven with faculty infighting. (Boston Globe)

UMass President Martin Meehan says he supports the embattled UMass football program and says he has a plan to help the program succeed after moving up to Division 1. (Keller@Large)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Research at UMass Medical School in Worcester could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of AIDS and Ebola. (Telegram & Gazette)

The backlash against high drug prices is sending a chill through the biotech industry. (Boston Globe)

A Salem News editorial praises those affected by the opioid crisis for stepping forward to share their stories. The paper says information is the best cure.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy examines an advocacy group called “The Conversation Project” started by former Globe columnist Ellen Goodman that tries to get people to have end-of-life conversations with loved ones so final wishes can be honored.

TRANSPORTATION

House Speaker Robert DeLeo says MBTA fare hikes must be a “last resort.” (Boston Herald)

Gary Ortiz, who is launching a new cab company in Haverhill, says the city will suffer if it opens its door to ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Washington, DC subway system is operating under federal oversight because of past safety issues. (Washington Post)

CommonWealth’s Gabrielle Gurley talks about the mission impossible confronting the new members of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board on WGBH’s Under the Radar with Callie Crossley.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The electric cars are coming: Tesla opens its first store in Boston. (Boston Business Journal)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A defense attorney blames the Lowell Drug Court for the death of his client, saying she couldn’t handle the pressure to stay sober to avoid jail. (The Sun)

A BU student says a male sexually assaulted her in her dorm room early Sunday morning. (WBUR)

Like many other commercial enterprises, the Internet has changed the business of prostitution, pushing the sex trade from the urban streets to the suburbs. (Wicked Local)

MEDIA

Paul Levy decries the recent layoffs at the Globe and the spin that it’s producing a leaner, better product, calling the printed paper a “vestigial organ in the minds of the owners” as they pursue other online ventures such as the health-and-medicine-focused Stat. (Not Running a Hospital)

The Berkshire Eagle calls out Time Warner for the poor video quality of its Pittsfield local access channels.