CPS to state leaders: Face up to reality. Cancel spring MCAS now.

Citizens for Public Schools congratulates state education officials on beginning to acknowledge the harsh realities of education in a time of pandemic by proposing to reduce the scope and the stakes of MCAS and ACCESS testing this school year.

We urge them to take another giant leap toward the real world and do what Citizens for Public Schools, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and the state’s teachers unions have been asking them to do for months: Cancel this spring’s MCAS and let educators focus on the enormous task of educating students, not pointless test prep.

If state leaders want to determine whether there has been serious learning loss, let educators tell them: Yes, there has. 

They could also ask educators how the state can help, instead of documenting what everyone already knows.

If they want to know whether the pandemic has exacerbated race and income learning gaps, again the answer is yes.  

Now please let people get back to work.

More help from the state in the form of money for everything from air filters to contact tracing to full funding of the Student Opportunity Act would certainly help.

Regarding the ACCESS test, used to place English learners, the new state dictum also goes only part of the way to realism and fairness. WIDA, the company that publishes the ACCESS test, has agreed that states can delay ACCESS testing until the summer. Massachusetts should do that immediately. 

State officials should also inform parents, in their own languages, that participation in ACCESS is voluntary, and if parents don’t feel it’s safe to send their children to school for testing, they can make that decision without fear of penalties. So far, state officials have not agreed to send those notices. Non-English speaking families continue to suffer the most from the coronavirus. Their children face the greatest risk. The reluctance of state officials to give them clear information in their own languages makes a mockery of their often-repeated claims that they are guided by concerns for equity.