TEST PHOTO MCAS (copy)

The School Committee this week voted to urge state education officials seek a federal waiver and suspend the spring MCAS.

PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield School Committee has officially added its voice to calls to suspend standardized testing requirements this spring

The School Committee voted unanimously this week to formally request that Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education seek a waiver of federal testing requirements and suspend the MCAS. That request comes just over one week after more than a dozen groups wrote to state education officials urging them to seek federal approval to suspend the spring MCAS.

The motion called for the suspension “given the significant disruption to in person instruction that has been experienced by students and staff” during the continued pandemic, and the need for educators “to spend as much time as possible instructing students” and making up for lost learning. The committee also asked the state and federal delegation to support their push to suspend the testing requirement.

The move follows advocacy and outreach by parents to members of the School Committee, Chairperson Katherine Yon said Wednesday. Yon said students have weathered too difficult a year to face the statewide test.

“Putting in high-stakes testing at this point is very demoralizing to our students," she said. "They’re trying to stay up with everything the best they can, and then they have the pressure of that put on them along with everything else? It’s just way too much.”

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The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has said it views the MCAS as an important tool to assess learning loss during the pandemic, and announced a modified MCAS exam and the suspension of certain graduation requirements this year.

MCAS testing this year would not be a productive way to help restore “academic and social emotional equilibrium,” said Mayor Linda Tyer, who also sits on the School Committee, but there must be some alternative for gauging students’ academic progress.

To prepare for and take the standardized tests would eat up the limited time students have to catch up, said Taconic junior William Garrity. He suggested using the district’s curriculum benchmarking system to track students progress across subjects.

With the MCAS, Garrity said, “we’re just losing more class time where we could be catching up on our learning.”

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.

Amanda Burke covers Pittsfield City Hall for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise. Find her on Twitter at @amandaburkec.