Reason #1: Making major decisions based on standardized tests – has failed.
Citizens for Public Schools
State officials are planning to require students to take the MCAS tests this spring. We are fighting back.
It’s time to cancel MCAS testing for 2021. Testing students in this pandemic year would be a waste of time — time that is needed for teaching and supporting students. Testing also wouldn’t yield useful results, and would be a logistical nightmare and could potentially expose students and staff to harm if students who would otherwise be remote are required to take the MCAS or ACCESS tests inside school buildings.
After MTA members flooded the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with petitions, emails and phone calls on these issues, DESE met us partway with a new testing plan outlined in a Jan. 5 memo. This plan includes eliminating the MCAS graduation requirement for this year’s seniors; requiring students in grade 3-8 to only take a portion of each test; and agreeing to not label any new schools or districts as “underperforming” or “chronically underperforming” this year.
DESE’s new plan is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.
The MTA is partnering with Citizens for Public Schools in a campaign to get more than 100 school committees across the state to affirm their support for a Massachusetts Association of School Committees resolution to cancel MCAS testing in the spring of 2021. This resolution was approved by a vote of 112-9 with two abstentions at the MASC’s Annual Meeting on Nov. 7.
To stop test administration altogether, the U.S. Department of Education must first allow states to apply for waivers from federal testing requirements. National and state organizations are already advocating for waivers from the incoming Biden administration. Federal permission is not needed for the state to waive the MCAS-based high school graduation requirement.
“The commissioner heard from classroom educators, parents and local school committee members and has taken a step in the right direction with this plan,” said MTA President Merrie Najimy. “That said, we will continue to organize for a federal waiver to cancel testing altogether this year so that we can stay focused on our top priorities of tending to our students’ wellness and furthering our creative efforts to make pandemic education successful.”
Parents, students and educators in Massachusetts and across the country are pushing back against high-stakes standardized tests. Teachers assess students all the time to guide instruction. These assessments are not the problem. Rather, concerns involve the excessive amount of time and money spent on externally created standardized testing and the high stakes attached to the results.
Citizens for Public Schools
Defending the Early Years and FairTest
Christopher Tienken, Seton Hall U.