Friday, June 2, 2000
Regional school committee drafts MCAS resolution
The Concord and Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committees are drafting a resolution stating their position on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests to the state Department of Education. At a joint meeting of the RSC and the Carlisle School Committee at the Carlisle School library on May 23, Carlisle member Cindy Nock said constructive criticism of the tests is needed, "We want education reform to be a success. A lot of people believe it is on its way to failure." Nock handed out a draft of a resolution that supports the goals of education reform and high academic standards, but also asks the state to reconsider and re-examine some of the more controversial aspects of the tests.
Last month, the Concord and Concord-Carlisle High School teachers presented the Regional School Committee with a petition opposing the MCAS tests and asked them to take a public position opposing the tests. The teachers cited similar actions taken recently by the Lincoln-Sudbury, Arlington and Brookline school committees.
Some of the recommendations in the current draft include asking the state to require students to pass only the English/language arts and math tests for graduation, with the science and history and social sciences tests not counted for graduation. Also called for is an alternative criteria to passing the MCAS for graduation, allowing students the option of presenting a portfolio of work for assessment. The draft also asks the state to evaluate the "appropriateness" of the tests for students with severe special needs, non-English speaking students and students in vocational schools.
Member Harry Crowther of Carlisle said the goal of higher academic standards is an excellent one, "I support the standards in our interest and in the interest of other towns." However, Crowther acknowledged that the test has serious flaws in its current version. Concord member Pat Sinnott did not support a statement from the school committee: "There's a lot to be gained from high stakes tests. The Commonwealth is better off for this." Concord member Nick Michaels countered, "If we make no statement, we condone the problems with the tests." Michaels said he believed the politicians keep tally of district positions, "Our silence may be construed incorrectly." Chair Lauren Walters of Concord noted that over 80 percent of the faculty of the Concord Schools and Concord-Carlisle High School signed a petition supporting high standards, but opposing MCAS in its present form. "We need to be responsive to their request," he said.
Fred Wersan of Concord discussed some additional points to emphasize in the resolution. Wersan said the committee should consider including issues, such as the impact of the length of the tests which span two weeks each spring and the need for test results to be returned faster than six months so students can receive help in a subject if needed. Wersan also expressed concern about the impact of labeling students who fail the test and about the "misuse of test results" with some using MCAS scores to compare towns saying, for example, "This town is better."
Carlisle School Committee Chair Paul Morrison said Carlisle did not have the resolution draft until the meeting and did not yet have a position on it. The Carlisle School Committee will look at the resolution at its next meeting. Morrison said this week that Carlisle "may be compatible with the language of the Concord and Concord-Carlisle MCAS resolution, we may have our own resolution, or we may not take any position." There has not been any particular opposition to MCAS from the school committee or administration in Carlisle, he said.
The Regional School Committee will present a revised version of the MCAS resolution at the last meeting of the school year on June 13.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito