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MA Groups Urge New Framework for Standardized Testing

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021   

BOSTON - Educators, parents and union leaders say Massachusetts needs a major overhaul of its standardized testing for students.

The most recent MCAS results - the state's annual standardized test - show more students performing worse in math and English compared with the year before the pandemic, and disparities remain between Black and Latino students and their white peers.

Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said these results don't accurately reflect students' abilities, but rather how much a community's school system has been under-resourced and under-funded.

"MCAS results reduce non-white students to merely a deficit or an achievement gap," she said, "rather than allowing educators to understand and align their teaching with the rich cultural wealth that students and their families possess."

She said a bill now in the General Assembly would remove MCAS as a graduation requirement and develop a new framework for assessing students and schools. It also would create a grant program for communities to develop evaluations, and suspend current accountability requirements for MCAS performance until schools are fully funded.

Music educator Deb Gesualdo, president of the Malden Education Association, said it's a big problem that passing the MCAS is a requirement for high school graduation, especially for low-income students, English learners and students who have Individualized Education Plans - or even test anxiety.

"As teachers, we have to differentiate the way we teach," she said. "We don't teach every student the same way, and yet we are forced to give an MCAS exam that treats every student pretty much the same."

Gesualdo echoed the importance of an approach that takes students' diverse backgrounds and learning styles into account. She added that the test has been in place for more than 20 years, and said she thinks updates are overdue.

Disclosure: Massachusetts Teachers Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues, Civic Engagement, Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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