The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 29, 2000


Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) Resolution Adopted by the Concord School Committee and Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee

The Concord Public Schools and the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District have a history of high expectations for our students and staff. Our students have consistently achieved above Massachusetts norms on a variety of assessment media, including the first two rounds of the MCAS tests. As districts, we have worked diligently to reconcile our curriculum with the Curriculum Frameworks, seeking to ensure that our children can meet the requirements of the Frameworks, without sacrificing the rich curriculum that we have developed over many years.

With this background in mind, we write to express our concerns about the MCAS program. These concerns have been raised repeatedly by both our administration and our teachers since the inception of the program:

·The length of the tests is excessive, taking significant amounts of time away from instruction and disrupting entire schools, not simply the tested classes.

·The six month interval between administration of the tests and receipt of the results is far too long. It creates needless anxiety for students and by delaying identification of students with poor performance wastes time that could be devoted to remediation.

·Continued problems defining subject area content and continued problems with the accuracy of the test questions and their answers calls into question the validity of the tests.

·Despite its title, the MCAS tests are not comprehensive, as required by the Educational Reform law.

·The state has created a confrontational, punitive atmosphere around the tests and has condoned invidious comparisons between school districts based on the tests.

·The Dept. of Education has failed to adequately address the testing issues for students with severe special needs. Nor has it addressed the fate of the percentage of students who must, inevitably, fail to achieve a passing grade for a diploma.

We do not believe that 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. To that end, we make the following suggestions:

·Finalize the ELA, Math, and Science/Technology frameworks so that alignment can stabilize 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 alignment. 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.

We urge the Dept. of Education and the Board of Education to respond to these issues. We urge you to create an environment that supports high standards where they are being implemented and helps everyone work together to achieve them in districts where they are not.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito