Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Test is Broken

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, otherwise known as "ugh - MCAS", has the students enrolled in public schools across this fine state firmly in its teeth.

Today the CCHS Library closed its doors to classes and students on study passes in order to make room for over 165 students who needed additional time to finish today's exams. This is in addition to students in 3 other extended-time locations in the school. In other words, the majority of the sophomore class was unable to finish the test in the allotted time.

As I look at the kids silently writing away in every available space, I see many of the brightest and most diligent students at CCHS. There isn't a student in this library who isn't totally focused on the task at hand. I am so proud of all of them, and yet I can't help but feel frustrated.

When I think about the time allocated to mandated testing, balanced against lost instructional time, and multiply it across the state and across grade levels, I have to join the chorus and ask is this really necessary?

Wikipedia says MCAS has 3 primary purposes:
  1. to inform and improve curriculum
  2. to evaluate student, school, and district performance according to Massachusetts Curriculum Framework content standards and performance standards
  3. to determine student eligibility for the Competency Determination requirement in order to award high school diplomas
These are legitimate goals. Protecting students in chronically under-performing schools and federally guaranteeing them the right to an education based on standards and verifiable results is worth it, without a doubt. This isn't the way to go about it.

When the majority of a class is unable to finish a standardized test in the allotted time, it isn't their fault. MCAS just doesn't work. The test is broken.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons
take the test already
by billaday
uploaded 5/28/08

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