Rethinking High-Stakes Tests
Standardized tests have never been a comprehensive measure of student learning, and during a pandemic cannot possibly measure student learning with any validity. Testing will only mean that all students will lose precious learning time, while, disproportionally, Black, Latinx, low-income, English learners and special education students will fall even further behind.
Despite the pandemic, the MCAS tests are still planned for this spring. But what if they gave a test and nobody came?
Parents, educators and students agree with the MTA: It’s time to cancel MCAS testing! High-stakes tests are problematic in any year, but they are especially damaging in the midst of a pandemic. This year, testing would divert precious time and energy needed for teaching and supporting students just to tell us what we already know: The pandemic has negatively impacted them, especially low-income students of color. Administering the MCAS would be a logistical nightmare. It would also require students to crowd into school buildings to take these tests, needlessly exposing them and staff to the coronavirus.
Last year, after schools across the country closed in March due to the pandemic, all 50 states applied for and received a federal waiver from testing. This year, state and federal bureaucrats are making it extremely difficult to cancel the tests outright.
Many states – though not Massachusetts – have signaled they want a waiver again. On Feb. 22, the Biden administration undermined that idea, announcing that waivers from administering the tests will not be granted, though flexibilities will.
The MTA and allies are continuing to fight by raising public awareness about the negative impact of high-stakes testing on students and by advocating for a bill to end the state’s MCAS-based high school competency determination forever.
If state and federal bureaucrats refuse to cancel the MCAS, parents can take charge to protect their children. They can opt out — refusing to let their children be subjected to this unnecessary, stressful and racially biased test in the middle of a pandemic.
Opting out, or refusing the test, is a powerful way to protest the misuse of high-stakes tests in Massachusetts public schools.
Defending the Early Years and FairTest
Citizens for Public Schools
Christopher Tienken, Seton Hall U.