Thursday, 4:30 PM
MCAS critics push for change
By Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff
Lawmakers buoyed by Governor Deval Patrick's pledge to scrutinize the MCAS heard testimony today on legislation to overhaul the state’s testing system, including one bill that would suspend the MCAS graduation requirement until broader assessments are available.
MCAS opponents have long contended that the high-stakes tests are too narrow and prompt teachers to limit their instruction to the material on the test. State education officials and others have fiercely defended the MCAS, saying they want to hold students to a uniform high standard. Friday, Patrick said he would name a committee to examine a variety of education issues, including how to improve the MCAS and introduce new academic standards and assessments.
School officials, former state education officials, and Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford testified before the Joint Committee on Education. Last year, Governor Mitt Romney threatened Lang with the loss of millions of dollars in state aid when Lang tried to give high school diplomas to students even though they had flunked the MCAS. More than 95 percent of the state’s students now pass the MCAS to graduate.
The state's testing system stems from the Education Reform Act of 1993, which set academic standards and called for assessments to measure student achievement. The state now tests students in a variety of subjects from third grade to sophomore year in high school.
Since 2003, the state has also required all students to pass English and math tests to graduate. Science and history exams will soon become graduation requirements as well.