A Quarter of Local Seniors May Not Graduate

Failing MCAS scores stand between Rindge seniors and their diplomas

Nearly one fourth of seniors at Cambridge’s only high school may not graduate this spring because they have yet to pass the state-mandated Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test, according to preliminary data obtained from school officials yesterday.

Approximately 70 students out of a class of under 400—including many who have completed the school’s graduation requirements—did not pass the December re-take of the standardized test.

While data show a 90 percent passing rate on the retest state-wide, only 80 percent of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) students passed the English language arts portion of the test and less than 70 percent passed the math portion, Cambridge Public Schools Director of Development and Assessment Barbara W. Black said.

According to new state legislation that takes effect this year, only students who pass both sections of the MCAS will be awarded a high school diploma.

That leaves CRLS seniors with only one more chance to pass the test—at a May retest date.

But some do not see the situation as cut and dried.

Last spring, the Cambridge School Committee voted to allow students to graduate even if they had not passed the test.

But Interim Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Turk said she would bar such students from graduating this year.

“My position is that I should follow the law,” she said. “Students who have not passed the MCAS should not graduate.”

But Turk said she wanted to ensure that all students were given the ability to pass the test, citing the success rate of MCAS review classes.

“Equally important as the law is that we have measures in place to make sure that all of our students are given all of the tools that they’re entitled to to pass the MCAS,” she said.

At last night’s school committee meeting, several teachers and students protested the “high stakes” nature of the test and implored the committee to allow students who failed the test to participate in graduation ceremonies this spring.

“It worries me that these students might not be able to walk across the stage with their peers,” said Rasheed Meadows, dean of students in School 2, one of the high school’s five sub-units.

Meadows said he submitted a letter to the committee from School 2 faculty members asking that students who failed the test not be singled out at graduation.

CRLS senior Desirea More, who learned today she missed passing the retest by only one point, said at last night’s meeting she thought it was unfair that she would not graduate despite her near-perfect attendance and high grades.

“All of a sudden there comes a test, and even if you have all straight A’s you can’t graduate,” she said. “If the things we were expected to know we haven’t learned, how are we supposed to pass the test?”