MCAS COVID-19 Update: CPS Analyzes What’s Changing & What’s Staying the Same

January 2021

Jeffrey C. Riley, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, has proposed several changes to the MCAS this year, in light of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the changes and what they mean for Massachusetts students and educators. 

  • In a January 5 memo, Commissioner Riley said he will recommend to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that this year’s seniors be allowed to earn their high school diplomas by passing their required courses and not have to pass the MCAS. 
  • He said, “The [Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)] will significantly reduce testing time for students in grades 3-8 through a session sampling approach, in which each student will take only a portion of each MCAS assessment in each subject.”
  • The Commissioner will not “recommend to the Board any new underperforming or chronically underperforming districts or schools in the upcoming school year.” Those are labels the state assigns based on MCAS scores.
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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.   → Read More

Progress! Boston Moves toward Racial Justice & Equity, Changes Boston Exam School Admissions

On October 21, in a step toward racial and educational justice, the Boston School Committee voted unanimously in favor of a proposal to drop the entrance exam used for admission to the district’s three selective public schools. NAACP Boston Branch President Tanisha Sullivan, who helped draft the proposal, read from a statement by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi wrote, “…we know a policy is creating more equal opportunity if it is closing racial and economic inequity. We know a policy is not creating equal opportunity if it is maintaining racial and economic inequity. And the data is indisputable on the effects of this plan: it will close racial and economic gaps.” (Dr. Kendi’s entire statement is powerful, illuminating and worth reading!)

CPS was proud to join with 12 civil rights, education justice, and community organizations in support of the Exam School Admission Criteria Working Group’s admissions proposal for the 2021-2022 school year.   → Read More

Ask your legislators to support MCAS moratorium legislation

Enough is enough: NOW is the time for a moratorium on the high-stakes MCAS!

With widespread protests against racist policies and institutions, it’s time to face how MCAS worsens education inequities. MCAS has not furthered equity and racial justice in our public schools. Instead, the record shows that many students and schools have been deeply harmed by MCAS testing.

Help us end high-stakes MCAS testing in Massachusetts so we can focus on students’ real needs, including racial justice, health, well being and a whole child education! We can and must do better than a system that has done nothing to improve school quality or close gaps in opportunity after more than 20 years. On the contrary, many students and schools have been deeply harmed by the racially biased MCAS. (To learn more about why it’s time for an MCAS moratorium, read our new report, MCAS is the Wrong Answer.   → Read More

CPS Report: MCAS is the Wrong Answer

The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 (MERA) substantially increased state financial contributions to public education in exchange for increased state control. It brought a narrow student assessment system based upon a single set of standardized tests. The tests were used as the foundation of an accountability system for evaluating students, schools and districts.

In the years since, the Massachusetts’ accountability system has been hailed a success. But are the claims valid? Our comprehensive review of a wide array of evidence shows that the MCAS has failed to advance equity and racial justice in our public schools, and instead has been associated with several major disadvantages for historically underserved groups. This issue has particular urgency because of the potential of the COVID-19 pandemic to further exacerbate inequities that already exist in our state’s public education system.

Our conclusions and the evidence for them can be found in our new report, MCAS is the Wrong Answer: Six Ways High-Stakes Testing Has Failed Students and What to Do Now.   → Read More