Education Officials Criticize MCAS

WORCESTER--School board members from across the state strongly criticized the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) yesterday and called on state education officials to stop requiring the test for graduation until "critical issues" have been resolved.

In the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, representatives from more than half of the state's school governing boards took a middle ground, leaving open the possibility that MCAS could be used as a graduation requirement in the future.

By a137-30 vote, they adopted a resolution calling MCAS--a battery of standardized tests given state-wide to fourth, eighth and tenth graders--"seriously flawed."


But they defeated a stronger resolution that would have asked for a permanent prohibition on MCAS as a graduation standard.

The more moderate resolution passed easily after more than an hour of passionate--but not contentious--debate. The resolution said that MCAS is unfair to students in special and vocational education programs and to bilingual students. The resolution also said students' graduations should be determined by many other criteria, like projects and portfolios, and not just by the MCAS tests.

"No single pencil and paper test should decide a student's future," said E. Denise Simmons, vice-chair of the Cambridge School Committee. Simmons represented Cambridge at the meeting and voted in favor of the resolution.

This year--for the first time--tenth graders statewide will have to pass the MCAS to graduate. If they fail in tenth grade, they can try again in eleventh and twelfth grades.

Simmons said she worries that the fear of failing MCAS could drive students who are struggling in school to drop out altogether.

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