[Susan notes: This letter is good--it gives reader something to do--besides getting angry.]
Published in Berkshire Eagle
For 95 high school seniors in the class of 2003 and 354 high school juniors in the class of 2004, one question has made all the difference. These students had passed the English Language Arts portion of the MCAS, but fell short in the math. In other words, up to this point in time, these students were considered incompetent to graduate from high school with a diploma. A state-sponsored Certificate of Attainment would replace their diploma if they continued to score too low on the math portion of the MCAS. However, all of these students miraculously moved from incompetent to competent because of a recent correction in one math item. The Department of Education declared two correct answers for one math question. What a relief for these students and their families!
One question: How can the total summation of the K-12 educational experience narrow to such a small focus? What is competency? Should the answer to one math question limit the possibilities, dreams, and opportunities for so many students? Currently, about 12,000 Massachusetts seniors have not passed both the math and English Language Arts portion of the MCAS. The state Department of Education informs us that they are incompetent to graduate with a diploma.
Multiple measures of assessment, not one high stakes MCAS test, should determine competency. There are many ways to prove competency in a standard besides testing; all students deserve this opportunity. However, as currently administered, the MCAS high stakes tests will continue to divide students into winners and losers based on arbitrary cut-off points. If you care about the future well being of your children and grandchildren, write a letter to your legislator (http://www.state.ma.us/legis/citytown.htm) and demand an end to state-sponsored high stakes tests which discriminate against poor, minority, urban, special education, second language learners, and vocational education students. It's never too late to stand up for what is right for all students. One question. How can we not afford to act?
Joan Samuels Kaiser