Yesterday the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was forced to pull a racially offensive question from the grade 10 English Language Arts MCAS test — but it has not agreed to discard the entire test despite the negative impact it had on student test-takers disturbed about the question.
It's urgent that we act NOW! Below are two things we must do!
- Flood the phone lines and inboxes of members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to demand that DESE cancel the 10th-grade MCAS, end the silencing orders placed on students and educators, and implement a moratorium on high-stakes testing.
- Make your upcoming #FundingFridays all about the impact the MCAS has on your students and explain why they need full funding instead. The only good "ed reform" is providing public schools the funds they have been deprived of for a generation.
Tell Commissioner Jeff Riley and members of the BESE to:
- Cancel the entire 10th-grade exam and hold all students harmless.
- Implement a moratorium on MCAS because of the harm it is doing to our students.
The MCAS test item asked students to read a passage from Colson Whitehead's book "The Underground Railroad" and write a journal entry from the perspective of a white woman who holds racist attitudes and is torn about whether to help a runaway slave.
Students reported that they found the assignment distressing because it seemed to require them to use the same kind of racist language the character would have used. Students of color reported being traumatized that they and other students were being required to reflect those noxious views. To make matters worse, students and educators are forbidden by DESE from talking about the questions or the impact they've had on students.
The author himself told The Boston Globe that he is "appalled and disgusted" that his book was used in this way. So are we. Please don't hesitate to let BESE members and Commissioner Riley know how you feel.
We are in the frenzy of MCAS season in grades three to 10, when meaningful teaching and learning are disrupted, schedules are upended and our students are stressed out. In addition to taking action on Funding Fridays, tell your stories via social media about the impact of MCAS and why we need more funding and less testing. Tag @massteacher on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.