[Susan notes: Paul makes important points in this letter.]
Published in Patriot Ledger
I thought the recent Ledger series on MCAS was superior to the coverage of any paper, including the Boston papers.
I'd like to add several points for your readers to consider. First, passing or not passing an MCAS test does not "determine" that any student has or does not have the skills we'd expect of a high school graduate. The state calls passing the test a "competencey determination." The state also calls MCAS an "accountability system." Both are lies.
Secondly, we have spent, conservatively, $400 million dollars on MCAS tests since their inception, and this has allowed us to identify by name and permanently label as failures 6000 or so young people. At the same time we have labeled, though not permanently (yet) thousands more in other grades as inadequate. Those kids are already lowering their expectations for themselves in this life. Some of them are only 10 years old.
Third, we shouldn't focus merely on seniors failing; thousands of fourth graders across the state have already been told by their state that they are failures, or "need improvement." After years of being told you are inadequate, often you come to believe it. We should spare children that fate.
Fourth, our $400 Million investment has brought us information. For example, we know that The class of 2003 in Boston had 5000 kids in 9th grade. We know that only 3500 remain in 12th grade, and we know that 1600 or so are now officially failures. We have learned that the failures are overwhelmingly in our poorest communities. Frankly, I would have told the state this for significantly less money.
The MCAS tests hurt kids. Thanks to the Ledger for focusing on those kids who may have skills but cannot pass a written test. But please don't forget our third graders trying to read a sixth grade level item, and becoming sick over the test. Don't forget our 10th grader contemplating dropping out, and closing the door of opportunity forever. And don't forget the private and parochial school kids who escape this whole disaster. Money, it seems, walks to non-MCAS schools, the way Board of Education Chair Jim Peyser's kids do. Public school is about opportunity, and opening doors. MCAS testing closes doors for thousands. We should end it immediately.
Paul J. Phillips
Quincy Education Association
Paul J. Phillips, Quincy (MA) Education Association