Highlights from MCAS Hearing Testimony

Ryan Boyd: The only reason why I was prevented from getting that Diploma in 2018 was because I failed my Math MCAS by two points after I put in so much hard work and dedication into passing the test. I got a wonderful call this past spring from the school who told me that due to last year’s Pandemic and due to them being unable to do MCAS because of it they went back through my records and waived all of my testing requirements and told me that I was finally able to get my Diploma. My family and I cried and hugged each other so much knowing that I had finally made it to the finish line at long last.

CPS Board Member Lou Kruger: as one scholar pointed out, standardized tests are almost as old as the gas-powered automobile. In both cases, it is now apparent that the overuse of these technologies has exacerbated their unintended consequences to such an extent that their disadvantages often outweigh whatever utility they might have had. In regard to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), one of these harsh consequences is the denial of a high school diploma. Since 2003, 52,745 students have gotten to the end of their senior year without passing the required tests for a diploma.

CPS Board Member Karen Kast-McBride: Since Education Reform began over 30 years ago, we have been gerrymandering education, much like certain politicians gerrymander their elections. If you live in a city like Boston, Lawrence, Lowell or a poor rural area, you are less likely to have a well-funded school with everything your students need to succeed, and as such, charter schools and school choice allows cherry-picking of the students who will succeed no matter where they go. Which leaves these districts with students who need the most and with high-stakes testing, you see those districts continuously deemed underperforming, while all the “extras” like art, sports and clubs get cut and the district is targeted for state takeover. 

CPS Board Member Roberto Jiménez Rivera: MCAS may be broken, but what is most broken is this system. Even a good assessment can become problematic when it is plugged in to a bad system, so I want to step back and not talk about MCAS. We have created terrible incentives that narrow curriculum to ELA and Math, even as parents talk about the importance of social emotional learning, art, and music, and even as we see a world around us that desperately needs us to foster civic engagement and learning history. We need these things back!

CPS member Doug Selwyn: “…there is much more to school than math and ELA, and much more that is valued by families, by employers, and by those in our communities that are actually undermined by testing.  Employers and family members want young people who work well with others, who think critically and creatively, who are compassionate, kind, confident, and willing to explore new possibilities.  The testing curriculum undermines all of that.”

CPS Executive Director Lisa Guisbond: The ravages of COVID, disproportionately visited on our communities of color, underscore the need to change an assessment system that has done more to cement inequities and racism in place than remove them. 

MEJA Executive Director Vatsady Sivongxay: Especially now–with COVID, where immigrant students, low income students, and Black and Brown students are helping their families navigate COVID – finding and understanding healthcare services, education system, and employment. Some are doing all of these, and working in order to help their families. With this additional stress along with the pressure of doing well on a standardized test, MCAS doesn’t show how successful students can be. Instead – it supports the systemic racism that is constantly oppressing immigrants, students with disability, low-income and black and brown students and their families. It creates multiple barriers for students to achieve, maximize their opportunities, and their families to have a better and sustainable future.

PHENOM President Izabel Depina: I am a parent of a 9th grader. I am a student at UMass Boston and I am student organizer and President of Public Higher Education Network of Mass. I fight for social justice and racial justice. I have opted out my child last school year. I will fight for  my daughter and  all the children. Our Education system is racial ideology. MCAS is a racist practice. MCAS makes schools prioritize academic achievement over mental health. This affects BIPOC students the most because they do not have enough resources to get their education. We need to abolish MCAS once and for all. 

Boston College Education Professor Patrick McQuillan: The featured story on school segregation in the Ideas section of the Sunday Globe touched on a critical issue: the impact of school segregation on student performance.  The article included an elaborate table that highlighted the notable achievement gap between students of color and their white and Asian counterparts.  However, it is really not an achievement gap; it is an opportunity gap.  Just look closely at your article and consider the predicaments faced by urban students and just how starkly different the educational experiences—or opportunities—are for students in two neighboring towns, Lynn and Swampscott.    

CPS supports the following bills to reform MCAS:

* S.361 An Act establishing a special commission to re-imagine school assessment and accountability (Lewis). Creates a commission composed of diverse stakeholders to review and propose changes to the Commonwealth’s current assessment and accountability system. It will examine the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, as well as potential waivers; the range of alternative assessment and accountability systems in place or being considered across the country; and research data on what parents, K-12 educators, higher education and business leaders want students to know and be able to do upon high school graduation.

* S.293/H.612, An Act expanding opportunities to demonstrate academic achievement (Comerford/Hawkins). This bill will eliminate the high-stakes nature of MCAS by lifting the graduation requirement. It also changes the school evaluation process by de-emphasizing the MCAS test, expanding locally determined input, and factoring in the sufficiency of state and local funding. It creates a grant program that supports local school district planning for creative, locally determined school goal setting, evaluation and assessment. Finally, the bill provides support to MCIEA to administer the grant program and develop a report based on this program recommending changes to benefit school districts across the commonwealth. For more, click here.

* H.570. An Act to place a moratorium on high-stakes testing (Decker). For three years, places a moratorium on the MCAS high school graduation requirement, the use of MCAS scores for educator evaluation, and accountability provisions of section 1J or section 1K of chapter 69.

* H.713. An Act relative to the abolition of MCAS and profiteering from public education (Uyterhoeven). Abolishes the MCAS requirement for high school graduation and investigates opportunity costs and alternative options to instructional, curriculum, and assessment materials and technologies. 

* H.603. (Gonzalez) An Act to eliminate the use of the MCAS as the sole purpose for high school graduation. The MCAS test or other state-developed standardized tests shall not be a component of the competency determination for high school graduation.

September 20, 2021