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[Susan notes: As leader of Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing Sue Allison keeps close watch on test resistance in Massachusetts. She is also leading a campaign to acknowledge and support all resisters around the country. Here's a sample--Sue's letter to a Superintendent who faces state sanctions because his district is going to give diplomas to students who haven't passed MCAS but have met local requirements.]

Published in

To: Superintendent William G. Erickson

I am a mother in Lusby, MD -- and I just want to tell you that my heart is bursting with pride and admiration after reading about you today [Hampshire Regional chief sticks by awarding diplomas]. I just can't tell you how much your courage means to mothers all over the country. I am the coordinator of a group in Maryland called Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing [ www.geocities.com/stophsa ]. I feel a special kinship with the wonderful parents leading the fight against the MCAS graduation requirement. They have been a great help to me as I try to get a similar grassroots organization off the ground here.

We are following Massachusetts right down the high stakes graduation testing path with our Maryland High School Assessments (HSA's), which are to become make or break exit exams for the class of 2007. I attended a symposium of sorts a couple of weeks ago, where Michael Cohen, new President of Achieve Inc. was featured as the keynote speaker. He is a resident of Montgomery County, MD, so he was addressing his very own neighbors.

He stood there at that podium and had the nerve to tell the audience about a wonderful program called MCAS that was overwhelmingly supported by the citizens of Massachusetts, due in large part to efforts by the business community in Massachusetts - and about the marvelous 90% pass rate. Well let me tell you - Marylanders are not so easily taken in by slick spin. One audience member asked for the "real" pass rate, factoring in drop out and attrition rates. He had no answer, but said he doubted that anyone could attribute drop-outs to MCAS. Then thank goodness he called on me, or I would have had heart failure right there!

I asked -- If MCAS is so well supported - why have seven local school committees passed resolutions to award diplomas regardless of MCAS results? You could have heard a pin drop. I was so proud to ask that question -- so proud of the seven local school committees and the wonderful superintendents ready to carry out their resolutions. At once Michael Cohen's spin tactics about Massachusetts support for MCAS were dispelled as a complete fraud. All because I had that question in my back pocket -- because of the courage of people in Massachusetts who are willing to stand up for her children and for justice.

His answer was predictable-- some rambling about how it would be "irresponsible" for the school committees to flout the law. Just as I guess it was irresponsible of you to throw that tea in the harbor.

As I drove home from that meeting -- I said a quiet prayer that the seven school committees would find the courage to stand firm all the way through graduation day. Because if all deserving students receive diplomas this spring -- all of them -- the writing will be on the wall in permanent ink. High stakes graduation testing will not stand in this country -- it won't stand in Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, Texas or California. Because there will always be people willing to do what is right, even at the risk of their own careers.

I just want to say thank you -- please forward my warmest wishes and thanks to the members of your school committees that are taking this brave stand with you.

Please know you are doing the right thing and that your act of courage will mean more than you can ever know to mothers all over this country. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. I am one heck of a letter to the editor writer!

With warmest regards,

Sue Allison

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