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NCLB Outrages

Not more tests! MCAS exams doubling

Ohanian Comment: Massachusetts Education Commissioner David Driscoll gives a new euphemism for an assault on childhood: a time challenge for students. And his spokesperson Heidi Perlman has another word for the same assault: useful data. The sad thing is so many of the public buy into this scheme. Even in the face of her child's distress, a mom thinks the MCAS must be a good thing. She thinks the MCAS will help them. And why not? That's what the school authorities keep telling her. She has to believe them--or decide that they are lying. And no one wants to give their children over to liars and scoundrels--or minions of a corporate plan.

An onslaught of new MCAS exams has prompted the state to add an extra week for testing next year, a move critics say shows the high-stakes tests have hijacked Bay State classrooms.

``Too much drill and kill - it's boring, it's turning kids off from school, it's taking far too much time both for testing itself and to prepare the kids for the test,'' said anti-tester Monty Neill of FAIRTest.

Six new tests will be rolled out next year to meet federal No Child Left Behind requirements that all children in grades 3-8 and one grade in high school be tested in math and English.

That means students as young as third grade will have three days of reading tests spread out over one 60-minute and two 45-minute sessions plus two hourlong math test sessions.

Tenth-graders, who must pass English and math exams to graduate, may be facing as many as nine days of testing, depending on whether they take U.S. history and science, which is open to other grades.

To accommodate the increase of three English and three math exams, Education Commissioner David Driscoll told the Board of Education yesterday that Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System testing will be spread out over two weeks. Now, the tests are mostly given during one week.

``As we head into '06, it will be a time challenge for students,'' Driscoll said.

The new schedule will lessen students' ``test fatigue,'' make it easier to accommodate special needs students and allow tests to be scored earlier, Driscoll said.

His spokeswoman, Heidi Perlman, noted the tests were required by federal law and added, ``but we also think this is going to provide a lot of useful data on how kids are doing with these subjects.''

But some say the testing craze is getting to kids. Boston Public Schools psychologist Angela Cristiani said she has seen student stress rising, especially in middle school.

She typically asks students when evaluating them for special needs services what their worst fear is.

``Increasingly, I'm getting the response, `Failing the MCAS,' '' she said.

Several Boston parents said they had noticed the stress.

``They do weekly math tests to get them ready,'' said Donna Boland, mother of first- and second-graders in West Roxbury's Lyndon K-8 and a Hurley Elementary School preschooler. ``I think it's very stressful now in the young grades.''

South End mom Adell Warren thought the MCAS test was ``good for the kids'' because ``it's going to help them'' but acknowledged her Hurley Elementary School third-grader Tequila, 9, felt nervous about performing well on it.

``She says, `Mom, it's so hard, I don't know if I can do the tests,' '' Warren said. ``She was very down about it.''

— Kevin Rothstein
Boston Herald


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