MCAS Results Promote False Narrative about Students and Public Education

MCAS Results Promote False Narrative about Students and Public Education

The following statement was issued today by MTA President Merrie Najimy:

The MTA strongly opposed having districts administer the standardized MCAS exams last spring during the COVID-19 pandemic – and the results released today underscore the reasons for our stand in favor of students, schools and public education.

Educators reject the narrative that students have experienced tremendous “learning loss.” Rather, they have experienced dislocation and trauma. These issues are what the results demonstrate in cities and towns across the Commonwealth, including communities of color, which have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

MCAS scores mostly measure the impact of structural racism in the form of underfunding of public schools and public health, along with housing, food, and income insecurity – factors that students bring to their learning environment. Yet the MCAS has become a weaponized system that reveals and protects racial biases in public education and curricula.

The results released today – and the false interpretations being put on them by groups favoring privatization and other ways to disrupt public education – disregard the deep crisis in which our students and their families have been living since the pandemic closed school buildings in March 2020.

Educators throughout Massachusetts stepped up to fill a leadership void created by state education officials, and they did outstanding work in every possible way to meet the needs of students. Students themselves also stepped up to face the challenge, helping to ensure the safety of working families and our communities.

To suggest now that educators and students somehow “underperformed” or didn’t meet an arbitrary expectation is both insulting and shameful.

The goal of the high-stakes standardized tests introduced more than 20 years ago was to ensure that increased state spending on public education provided equitable resources for working-class students and students of color compared to students in more affluent districts. Just as the intended state funding for schools fell off track, requiring the MTA and other advocates to mount the successful Fund Our Future campaign that led to the passage of the Student Opportunity Act, the assessment process has become outdated and is desperately in need of full transformation.

It has become predictable to hear that Black and Latinx students have lower MCAS scores compared to predominantly white communities. These results feed a white supremacist mindset that reduces nonwhite students to merely a deficit or an “achievement gap” rather than allowing educators to understand and align their teaching with the cultural wealth that students and their families possess.

The MTA maintains that the MCAS simply measures the degree to which a community has been under-resourced and underfunded – and the degree to which narrow curriculum frameworks alienate so many students.

The MTA will continue to work with legislative leaders, parents and public education allies to move Massachusetts away from the destructive test-and-punish culture that so many other states have already abandoned and to create multiple pathways for students to demonstrate their mastery of key academic subjects. We are committed to building frameworks that are more holistic for understanding the quality of our schools.