Dr. Lupini moves to Brookline

In a sketch bound to remind someone older than–well, maybe around 90–of Frank Capra’s classic film feature with Jimmy Stewart, William Lupini, the superintendent of schools, moved his mental apparatus to Brookline this week, to the obvious surprise of and some consternation from his School Committee. The occasion was to have been a committee vote June 19 on adopting the new PARCC testing regime, replacing MCAS.

Instead, in a scene worthy of the late 1930s “screwball comedies,” Dr. Lupini transmogrified into “the instructor,” teaching “the class” a lesson on social justice. “I have pushed,” said Dr. Lupini, “on the untimed nature of MCAS versus the timed nature of PARCC…I’ve been promised a set of accommodations I haven’t seen yet.” After proposing just two weeks earlier to replace MCAS with PARCC except for tenth-grade testing, Dr. Lupini began singing “Let’s Put the Whole Thing Off.”

Now, it’s so well known that standard testing regimes disadvantage slow readers, since those regimes appeared in the 1920s, that the facts must have wormed their ways into the hearts of even the most wooden of School Committee members. They can’t possibly be a surprise, yet the acting skills on display June 19 might have convinced almost anyone who didn’t know better.

Committee chair Susan Wolf Ditkoff launched yet another “wordburst” like the one that underwhelmed town meeting this year. The change, she said, “does not reflect on my part an opposition to PARCC…PARCC was designed by governors…there were experts involved.”

As she often does, vice chair Barbara Scotto, a veteran of about 30 years teaching in Brookline schools, took a measured approach. “I am not basically opposed to testing,” she said. “I am against increasing the time that we spend on testing.”

Dr. Lupini and the School Committee are to revisit the issues in September. While they won’t have changed, public opinions may have. Referring to a recent decision in Medford to pass on PARCC for the coming year, Dr. Lupini noted, “Once you opted in, you were locked in.”

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 21, 2014

Frank Capra, producer and director, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains and Edward Arnold, Columbia, 1939

Ira Gershwin, lyrics, and George Gershwin, score, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, in Shall We Dance, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, RKO Radio, 1937

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