Another Standardisto Editorial from the Boston Globe
Ohanian Note: You've been warned. Proceed at your own risk.
CAS PASSED the test. In the full decade since education reform became the dominant social initiative in Massachusetts, one persistent question has been whether the assessment system, threatening to deny a high school diploma to those who didn't pass English and math proficiency tests, would work. Based on figures released yesterday that 90 percent of the state's public high school seniors have qualified to receive diplomas in June, it clearly has.
Two bits of evidence stand out. One is statistical: The class of 2004 is doing even better. Already, 84 percent have passed both tests after two tries, compared with 76 percent at that point for the class of 2003. The other is personal: the sense of pride and accomplishment expressed over and over by many of the 54,684 seniors who will graduate, knowing that their diplomas mean considerably more than diplomas did in the past.
The figures deserve examination. While the dropout rate has not risen, as some MCAS critics predicted, the passing rate may be elevated because some students were held back a grade. But if this helps them graduate with better skills, it is a clear benefit.
The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System does not deserve an A. There is still much to do. Even more effort is needed to identify students who are having difficulty and get them individualized help and encouragement. Even more focus needs to be placed on the gap between white and minority students, although yesterday's results showed improvement. Many school systems need to reexamine their curriculum choices so MCAS preparation does not squeeze out a range of other academic endeavors.
Still, a succession of educators, political leaders, business advocates, and others -- most prominently the students themselves -- should take great pride that this massive undertaking has moved forward with such steady vision and now with such demonstrated progress.
Once again, Massachusetts's reputation as a place where ambitious projects founder is disproved. Since it became law in 1993, education reform has been Massachusetts's Big Dig of the mind. Some steps have been delayed, and the cost has been high. But the effort has proven its worth.
March 4, 2003
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