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[Susan notes: You can use this letter for talking points against National Standards as well as high-stakes testing.]

Submitted to Boston Globe but not published
09/10/2009

To the editor



SCIENCE AND MCAS

Real learning lost in chase for test scores



CERTAINLY ALL our students need a sound scientific education if they

are to understand the world around them and the effects of technology

on their lives ("Science MCAS stymies many," Page A1, Sept. 3). But

the current state policy, which focuses on chasing an arbitrary score

on a standardized science test, derails efforts to engage students in

the processes and prospects of science and technology.



Scientific achievement is not standardized. The natural world is

diverse, and productive human inquiry takes many forms. The chemistry

needed to synthesize antibiotics is different from that used to assess

their effects on bacteria. Understanding glacial motions requires

different mathematics than that used to calculate asteroid

trajectories. Scientific advances depend on nurturing the full

spectrum of human intellectual diversity.



That is not what's happening. Under current education policy, hands-on

experience-based learning has been replaced by a "What's the right

answer?" syndrome. As always, test scores tell us a great deal about

disparities in students̢۪ wealth and backgrounds, but little about how

to help all students channel their curiosity about the natural world

into productive scientific work and study.



We need to set aside high-stakes exams and give all students access to

inquiry-based, hands-on science experiences instead of scripted,

shallow test prep.





The writer is a professor of molecular biology at MIT.

Jonathan King


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