High-Stakes Testing


  • Massachusetts has yet to fully realize the letter and spirit of the Education Reform Act of 1993, which called for a comprehensive assessment system composed of a variety of instruments and methods that are sensitive to different learning styles and barriers to learning such as English language proficiency and learning disabilities.
  • To reach our aspirations for educational quality and equity, Massachusetts public schools need balanced systems of: evaluation, assessment, and accountability.
  • We need a system that reflects and supports high and broad aspirations for our children, and measures the breadth and depth of all the skills required for success in our changing world. Such skills include the “21st Century skills” of creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration, media and information literacy, flexibility, initiative, social and cross-cultural skills and understandings, leadership, self-motivation and responsibility.
  • These skills are needed for students to succeed in college and skilled employment, but colleges and employers report that Massachusetts high school graduates still largely lack these capacities.
  • Achievement gaps remain unacceptably large, and dropout rates, already high before Education Reform, are rising among urban minority populations and among English language learners and students with disabilities.
  • Our current accountability structure suffers from an imbalance that places too much emphasis on standardized test outcomes and results in “goal distortion,” i.e., a diversion of attention from many important school goals to focus only on those that are measured by high stakes tests.
  • A consequence of this goal distortion has been less social studies, science, art, music, and physical education, as well as lack of attention to the 21st century skills, particularly for low-income children.


Citizens for Public Schools believes that we need to reform our state assessment and accountability system to include local classroom-based assessments combined with limited state-wide assessments to provide multiple sources of evidence of student learning and progress. These, together with an accreditation process, would eliminate the goal distortion and narrowing that has resulted from the current system and ensure a balanced and comprehensive accountability system that addresses the full range of academic and other 21st century skills;


Citizens for Public Schools calls for fundamental reform of our current test-based accountability system and an end to the high stakes uses of standardized test results, including an end to our graduation test requirement. We think it’s time to develop a balanced assessment and accountability system that will promote 21st century skills, educate the whole child and focus state attention and resources on schools and districts that most need help in their efforts to improve quality and outcomes for every student. We support the work of the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment (MCIEA) to develop and implement tools for such a system. 

What Can You Do?

  • Join Citizens for Public Schools.
  • Stay connected and informed about the issue by subscribing to CPS’s email newsletter, “News You Can Use About Our Schools.” To subscribe, send an email to lisa@citizensforpublicschools.org
  • Contribute your story about high-stakes testing to our blog, Life Under MCAS. (To send a story, email lisa@citizensforpublicschools.org.)
  • If you are a business owner, read and consider adding your name to the Statement of the Association of Business Leaders for Education (ABLE) on High-Stakes Standardized Testing.
  • Write letters to the editor sharing your views on how to improve public education by reforming the high-stakes MCAS.
  • Talk to your friends and neighbors about the need to improve public education for all with better assessment and accountability and urge them to join CPS.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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