Friday, July 14, 2000
Regional school committee sends MCAS resolution to state officials
The school committees of the Concord Public Schools and the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District have sent a resolution calling for changes in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests to the state department of education.
The resolution comes after a petition, signed by over 80 percent of teachers at the K-8 schools in Concord and at the high school, was presented to the school committees in May asking them to take a public position in opposition to some of the most controversial MCAS issues. Similar statements on MCAS were sent to state education officials this spring by the Lincoln-Sudbury, Arlington and Brookline school committees, among other school districts in the state.
At the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee meeting on June 27, member Fred Wersan distributed the MCAS statement drafted by the school committees. It begins by pointing out the strengths of the school system, "Our students have consistently achieved above Massachusetts norms on a variety of assessment media, including the first two rounds of the MCAS tests."
The letter lists some of the concerns voiced by teachers and administrators in the school system, one of which is the length of the exams given over two weeks each spring and their impact on the curriculum. "The length of the tests is excessive, taking significant amounts of time away from instruction and disrupting entire schools, not simply the tested classes." Also cited is the need to shorten the six-month interval between taking the tests and receiving results, so students with failing grades can take remediation classes as soon as possible.
Students must pass the English/language arts and math tests in high school in order to receive a diploma, beginning with the high school class of 2003. "The state has created a confrontational, punitive atmosphere around the tests and has condoned invidious comparisons between school districts based on the tests," the letter states. "We do not believe it is fair to students to implement high stakes MCAS testing until it is clear that school systems have had a reasonable chance to implement the curricula on which students are being tested," the letter states.
The Concord-Carlisle letter gives the following suggestions for changes to the tests and urges state education officials to respond to these issues:
· Finalize the English/language arts, math and science/technology frameworks so that courses can be aligned and have a chance of being effective.
· Re-examine the appropriateness of the Massachusetts frameworks and MCAS tests for students with severe special needs, non-English speaking students and for students in vocational training schools.
· Resolve the ongoing concerns about the accuracy of test content and answers.
· Until the frameworks and MCAS have been validated, consider success on MCAS as an affirmation of local graduation requirements, a cum laude, if you will, rather than a minimum requirement.
· "Buddy-up" schools that have successfully aligned their curriculum with schools that need assistance with their curriculum. Provide financial incentives. Provide additional financial encouragement if MCAS scores increase.
· Establish alternative criteria for graduation so that no single test will determine the fate of a student. That is, give students a choice between one of two rigorous assessment methods, one being the MCAS test and the other being a MCAS portfolio presentation.
The Concord-Carlisle resolution was sent to the state Department of Education, Governor Paul Celluci, State Senator Susan Fargo and State Representative Cory Atkins.
MCAS was initiated in 1998 by the Massachusetts Department of Education to raise educational standards in the state and to measure the performance of individual students, schools, and school districts.
No similar statement
from Carlisle School Committee
Member Cindy Nock of Carlisle said this week that the Carlisle School Committee has read the Regional School Committee's MCAS resolution , but has no current plans to draft a similar statement of its own. Nock said the CSC has not been as concerned over issues with the MCAS tests.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito