No reason to abandon MCAS testing

To the editor:

The recent legislative hearing on proposals to jettison assessment tests underscores the need to return the Democratic Party to its role as a champion for children’s education by recommitting to the assessment-based accountability model jeopardized by these bills. 

A disappointing number of Democratic legislators support bills that would undermine Massachusetts’ progress toward providing high-quality education for all students. The Worcester School Committee's endorsement of such measures (Worcester School Committee supports temporary halt to high-stakes testing, June 4, 2015) also constitutes an alarming step backward. Without a common bar for high school graduation, we risk returning to the days when - as one veteran Boston Public Schools teacher testified - “some students graduated from high school functionally illiterate.”

One thing is clear. Since passing the 10th grade MCAS tests became a graduation requirement, students are graduating from high school better prepared for college and careers. Achievement gaps persist, but that is no reason to abandon the assessments and accountability driving improvement.

While some school districts have added testing days throughout the year, the state requirements are minimal. For those who want local changes, the discussion should be at the local level. Other Democrats should be looking to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who cautioned colleagues to remember when government was “really good at shoveling tax dollars out the door, but not very good at improving student achievement.”

Luckily, those days are behind us. Let’s hope the legislature keeps it that way.

Liam Kerr

State Director

Democrats for Education Reform

Originally published in the Worcester Telegram. 

Read the letter here.