Unsurprising MCAS Results Reveal Cumulative Impact of Trauma

Unsurprising MCAS Results Reveal Cumulative Impact of Trauma

The following statement was issued today by MTA President Max Page:

The MCAS results released today are anything but surprising. Massachusetts students are showing the cumulative impact of trauma, given a pandemic that has brought staggering losses to families and communities – including the deaths of loved ones.

Our members, the educators who teach the vast majority of public school students in the Commonwealth, thoroughly understand the mental health, economic and academic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, which have become even clearer over the past year as students and staff have returned to classrooms. Students need mental health intervention and resources. Our schools need more educators who can help respond to their emotional and academic needs – including counselors, teachers, and Education Support Professionals.

What they do not need is a time-wasting, myopic focus on a high-stakes standardized testing system that has never worked as an accurate assessment of how well our students are doing in school. This applies to every community but is especially impactful in working-class communities, Gateway Cities, and communities of color.

It is painfully ironic that the state forced students and educators to misuse instructional time taking the MCAS tests only to reveal that students from low-income districts receive lower scores than their counterparts in wealthy ones – and then call for solutions that fail to restore that academic time.

The pressure on educators and students to produce ever-increasing scores steals precious time in classrooms from learning – hours could be better spent working together on hands-on projects and other collaborative efforts that allow students to demonstrate both their command of subject matter and their creativity. The countless hours spent on drill-based test prep are wasted. It is not uncommon for elementary school students in Massachusetts to spend more than 20 days taking online standardized exams.

As has been well documented in decades of research, scores on standardized exams are a mirror of family and community wealth and access to educational resources. The MCAS tests and others like them simply serve to point to and reinforce painful inequities among communities and reflect decades of structural racism.

One piece of good news is that we have a chance to begin to rectify this on Nov. 8, when the Fair Share Amendment will be Question 1 on the statewide ballot. Approving this constitutional amendment will mean the wealthiest Massachusetts residents will start to pay a fairer share. Passing Question 1 will help ensure equitable educational opportunities for all students by providing an additional $2 billion a year for public education and transportation while raising taxes only on annual income above $1 million.

If the data released today has any value, it is in reminding us that all of our students need and deserve the very best public schools if they are to succeed. That means our schools need sufficient numbers of educators – with the time and resources to be their best – so that they can meet the full range of needs of our young people as they learn to become successful adults and thrive in our society.