An Open Letter from Sen. Pat Jehlen to CPS members

Sen. Patricia Jehlen

Dear Friends in CPS,

Indeed it was an excellent hearing yesterday.  I was concerned about the State House News report, which seemed to imply that I didn’t support the bill I cosponsored.  Here’s what I wrote to the reporter:

Dear Michael,

I wanted to clarify that I’m a supporter of the Sciortino/Eldridge legislation.

As you noted, I pointed out that many students who pass MCAS have to take remedial courses in college, and asked how the proposal would help.

I hope you understood that this “question” was intended in support of Prof. Louis Kruger’s provocative analogy of the Food and Drug Administration, which first requires that a new drug be safe, and then that it be efficacious.  (They don’t require that it work better than existing alternatives, but that’s another story.)

Prof. Kruger argued that MCAS hurts students with special needs, i.e. is not “safe.”  I was suggesting that it’s not particularly “efficacious” either, since students who pass are not necessarily well prepared for college work.  This does NOT necessarily mean that MCAS isn’t “hard” enough.

The best answer to my question was Prof. Jonathan King’s testimony that MCAS does not test the skills necessary for success in science work in college or the real world, but instead tests memorization, and has led to less use of labs.  His example was that students now learn — for the exam — the parts of a microscope, but not how to use one.

I don’t know if you heard my response to Rep. Sciortino, who spoke about the Boston Globe story on Somerville parents choosing schools.

Rep. Sciortino’s remarks made me realize that one unintended consequence of the total focus on MCAS as the measure of schools is possibly resegregation of our school systems.  Parents who are financially able to move to the suburbs too often make judgments based on MCAS scores rather than visiting and learning about schools.  Since MCAS is highly correlated with social class, they inaccurately view our school system, which educates a highly diverse student body, as less effective than more homogeneous suburban districts.   If they visited my granddaughters’ classrooms in an “underperforming” school, they would get to see extraordinary teachers, among the best in the state if not the country.


Pat Jehlen

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