Margaret Riddle: MCAS test for voters to decide



Published: 03-29-2024 4:01 PM

In 1998, the first year the MCAS was required, I administered the test to fourth grade students in Northampton. Later, as a principal, I supervised the administration and analysis of the results. As such tests go, the MCAS can be useful, however it is limited. Since it intends to match the Massachusetts curriculum standards, careful analysis can ensure educators that curriculum has been taught and mastered. We analyzed results so our students had the best chance to demonstrate what they had learned in a testing situation.

The ballot question being considered by state legislators does not propose MCAS elimination. Instead, it proposes removing the requirement that students achieve a minimum score to receive a diploma. This requirement assumes that score indicates failure of a particular school district and/or student with regard to the prescribed curriculum. Furthermore, it assumes that an appropriate remedy is to deny that student the diploma necessary for entry to further education or the workplace.

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts believes “the state Board of Education should set minimum educational standards for local public school systems with reasonable criteria for implementation.” Educators respect the state standards, but do not agree that punishing students by denying a diploma is “reasonable criteria” to assess curriculum implementation. This requirement is just one example of the misuse of MCAS results to make unhelpful punitive judgments about students and school districts.

Join us in urging legislators to let voters decide this issue by ballot question in November.

Margaret Riddle for the League of Women Voters of the Northampton Area