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NCLB Outrages

No Resting on MCAS Laurels

Ohanian Comment: It looks like too many Massachusetts high schoolers are getting a diploma, so now comes the call to toughen the test.

And don't miss the Editorialists calling on us to stop decrying NCLB.

The editorialists mention a "national study," but don't name it. The editorialists don't mention the experts who said that
1) Graduate engineering students couldn't do some math problems.

2) MCAS math is more difficult than SAT math.

Of course, editorialists find the experts who suit their purpose.

Education reform at the state and federal levels is all about standards, and Massachusetts' are too low. That's the bottom line of two discrete education assessments revealed last week.

First, state officials were busy slapping each other on the back over the fact that some 80 percent of students in the class of 2006 have passed the English and math MCAS tests on their first try to meet the graduation requirement. (Of this year's seniors, some 96 percent have passed, as have 95 percent of the class of 2005.)

Gov. Mitt Romney also touted improvements in the passing rate of minority students and students in lower grades.

The gains are achievements worth noting but not worth celebrating. State Education Commissioner David Driscoll believes the MCAS passing standard is too low (now 220 points out of a scale of 200-280) on a test that a national study found assessed math and English skills at only a seventh, eight or ninth-grade level.

Yes, we've come a long way - requiring a standard of achievement for graduation seemed fantastical when first proposed in the early 1990s. But it is time to demand more from our schools and our students by raising the MCAS bar.

That will become even more apparent as the state releases its list of schools Wednesday that have failed to meet the ``adequate yearly progress'' standard required by the federal ``No Child Left Behind'' law.

Driscoll told the Herald last week to expect ``more than a doubling'' of the some 256 schools needing improvement last year, out of a total of 1,700.

By focusing more sharply on the performance of minority students, critics charge the federal standard unfairly saddles whole schools with a low-performance label.

What's really unfair is wasting energy decrying federal standards rather than figuring out how to better meet the needs of these struggling students.

State officials have been hesitant to use their power to take over underperforming schools. That, too, must change.

Under state or federal law, sitting on our education laurels ought not be an acceptable standard in Massachusetts.

— Editorial Staff
Boston Herald


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