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[Susan notes: Anne Wheelock brings her impressive knowledge of MCAS--and its effects--to good purpose in this persuasive letter.]

Published in Boston Globe

To the editor

The Globe reports ("MCAS's most onerous questions revealed," 8/4, pageB1) that two-thirds of Massachusetts tenth graders who identified an

MCAS reading passage, written in the first person, as a "biography" rather than an "essay" were marked wrong.

According to my Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, a biography is "1. a usu. written history of a person's life, 2. biographical writings as a whole, or 3. an account of the life of something (as an animal, coin, or a building)." The definition of

"autobiography" is given as "the biography of a person narrated by himself."

Students who selected either "biography" or "essay" were correct.

Although the test company's scoring machine may mark only one selection as "correct," the question actually has two "right" answers. A

biography is no less a biography for being written in the first person.

The Department of Education should rescore the question to give credit to the 67% of sophomores who are smarter than the test acknowledges. These students did, in fact, provide a correct answer to the question. Alternatively, if the second part of the question depends on getting the "right" answer to the first part, the entire question should be excluded from scoring altogether.

Anne Wheelock

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