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NCLB Outrages

MCAS critics renew call for abolition of test

By Steve Leblanc, Associated Press

Critics of the MCAS test, including dozens of
education professors in the state's public
college system, renewed their call Monday for
Gov. Deval Patrick to scrap the high stakes

A group of more than 40 teachers at the
University of Massachusetts and other state
colleges issued a statement saying that the
state needs to come up with an alternative
approach to measuring student progress.

They point to preliminary data released last
week showing that half the state's public
schools have failed to make adequate progress
toward meeting federal No Child Left Behind
standards for at least two years in a row.

That's a 37 percent increase from a year ago.

James Nehring, an MCAS critic and assistant
professor at UMass-Lowell, said the increasing
number of underperforming schools shows the
system is collapsing on itself.

"Major decisions about a student's life chances
and promotion from one grade to the next should
not be dependent on a single assessment
instrument," Nehring said, who had served as a
member of the Readiness Project, Patrick's
education reform initiative.

Patrick has previously said he would not tamper
with the test, which is a graduation
requirement in Massachusetts.

State Education Secretary Paul Reville called
the MCAS "a key piece of our assessment and
accountability system" and said the state will
continue to use it as one of several tools to
drive improvement in student learning

"We remain fully committed to promoting high
academic standards and holding districts and
schools accountable for helping students reach
those standards. Students must be proficient in
English, math and science in order to compete
in the 21st century global economy," Reville

Nehring said the MCAS hurts some of the
students it's meant to help. He said students
with low scores are "punished" with extra
worksheets and quizzes while those who score
well are given more freedom to learn without
the pressures of cramming for the multiple
choice tests.

Nehring said the education professors who
signed the statement calling for an end to the
MCAS would be happy to help the state come up
with an alternative.

State education officials released the
preliminary data Friday showing that 50
percent, or 828 schools, have been identified
for improvement, corrective action or
restructuring under the federal accountability
system, based on student performance on the
2008 MCAS English and math exams.

Education officials said many of the schools
have made academic progress, but not enough to
meet rising annual performance targets in
English and math.

Under the No Child Left Behind regulations, all
districts and schools are required to report
their progress toward helping all students
reach grade-level proficiency by 2014.

The 2008 results show that 75 percent of middle
schools have been identified for improvement,
corrective action or restructuring, compared
with 45 percent of elementary schools and 25
percent of high schools.

— Steve Leblanc
Journal Gazette


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