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Educators: Students' Needs More Pressing than Standardized Tests

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Parents can opt their child out of taking the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System statewide standardized test by speaking to or sending a letter to their principal. (Have a nice day/Adobe Stock)
Parents can opt their child out of taking the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System statewide standardized test by speaking to or sending a letter to their principal. (Have a nice day/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke, Public News Service - MA - Producer, Contact
April 2, 2021

BOSTON - State officials are making changes to this year's plans for the statewide standardized test, known as the 'MCAS,' or Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. But some educators would like to see it canceled altogether.

Passing the MCAS is required to graduate high school, although state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley is recommending the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education end the requirement for current 11th-graders.

Twelfth-graders already had a pass because of missed testing opportunities last spring. Sue Sullivan, who teaches at Northampton High School, said she doesn't think a diploma should be based on a standardized test for any grade.

"The majority of kids that are not passing the MCAS," said Sullivan, "that are struggling to get their diplomas, are students of color, and poverty and trauma."

A bill before the General Assembly would eliminate the MCAS as a graduation requirement permanently. Commissioner Riley is also recommending that students in grades three through eight be allowed to take the test remotely, and that the timeline for administering it be pushed back to June 11.

Sullivan, who teaches English as a Second Language, noted many of her students recently located to the U.S. and are already behind in English-language acquisition. She said devoting so much time to such a hard test takes away from their other classes and academic pursuits.

"This is not where we, in Massachusetts, want to be in the field of education," said Sullivan. "We should be putting more money towards the trauma support and the poverty support - as well as, you know, just being able to teach the kids."

For elementary and middle-school students, groups like the Massachusetts Teachers Association are urging local school officials to make sure parents and guardians know they can opt their kids out of taking the test this year, and provide meaningful activities for them to do during those test periods.

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