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[Susan notes: Keep repeating the facts.]

Published in Boston Herald

To the editor

Joe Scaccia's concerns about MCAS are right on the money ("Mitt could make the grade with a halt to MCAS," January 27). But the costs he cites - $18 million a year for testing and $50 million for test prep - are just the tip of the iceberg.

The total cost of MCAS is many times greater. Expenses include $1.5 million for glossy brochures and movie trailers to market MCAS to the public. Rescoring tests when errors are found requires additional state money.

Local costs mount up too. Schools have had to spend limited dollars for new textbooks and workbooks so that classroom materials match up with MCAS questions and changing curriculum frameworks. Copying practice test questions for test prep sessions costs more money. Substitutes who cover classes while teachers learn new test prep techniques and supervise test administration become another necessary expense.

What about long-term costs? Every year, some 10,000-plus seniors will complete school with only a certificate. They are ineligible for most post-secondary opportunities, including military service. They will not qualify for financial aid, even at the community colleges their tax-payer parents support. Their narrowed opportunities translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost earnings over their lifetime. Their lower wages mean lower tax revenues for the state.

Leaner state testing without a graduation requirement attached would not solve the budget crisis. But at least it would mean that local aid could support teaching and learning rather than an expensive test that offers little value for the money.

Anne Wheelock

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