A Bill Calling for a Graduation Test Moratorium

Why we need a moratorium on making students pass MCAS or PARCC

MCAS was never designed to be an indicator of college and career readiness.”
— Mass. Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester[1]

[MCAS] is a deeply broken system.”
Mass. Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland[2]

Commissioners Chester and Freeland say the new PARCC tests will do what MCAS failed to do: predict college performance. But nobody knows that because PARCC is brand new. The first PARCC tests are being given this year. It will be years before anyone can tell whether they predict future success any better than MCAS.

Even Chester says students should not have to pass PARCC until at least the class of 2020. But until then, he wants to require students to pass MCAS, even though MCAS is “deeply broken” and isn’t an “indicator of college and career readiness.”

The fact is, more and more colleges have stopped requiring any standardized test for admission, not even the traditional SATs. Over 800 colleges no longer require SATs[3].

It turns out that the best predictor of college performance is Grade Point Average – that is, the collective judgment of a student’s teachers, based on all the work the student has done – not a standardized test that bears little resemblance to the real world.

Meanwhile, our high schools continue to waste countless hours prepping students for a test that says very little about their future prospects.

And every year, more than 1,000 Massachusetts students complete all their other high school requirements but can’t get their diplomas because they haven’t been able to pass MCAS.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education calls them “Non-Grad Completers.” In 2014, the department reported 1,250 “Non-Grad Completers,” with disproportionately high numbers of Black, Latino, and low-income students, students with disabilities, and especially English Language Learners.

That number doesn’t include students who dropped out of high school after failing the test repeatedly.

Many students who don’t pass MCAS could do well in a job. For many jobs, what counts is dependability and hard work — not the ability to solve quadratic equations. But without a high school diploma, they don’t have a chance. In the past, they could have gotten a G.E.D., but starting in 2014, that test has become much tougher.

Let’s help students learn and get ready for their adult lives instead of putting extra hurdles in their way.

It’s time to rethink our “deeply broken” standardized testing system. A three-year moratorium will give us time to do that, without hurting thousands more students.

[1] Boston Globe, Sept. 24, 2013 [http://bit.ly/globemcas]

[2] State House News, Jan. 14, 2015 [http://bit.ly/mcasbroken]

[3] PBS Newshour, Feb. 18, 2014 [http://bit.ly/800colleges]