Questions about Today’s Release of Next-Generation MCAS Results

(Courtesy of timlewisnm/Flickr)

(Courtesy of timlewisnm/Flickr)

Statement from Citizens for Public Schools/Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance regarding today's release of next-generation MCAS results:

Results from the next-generation MCAS exam show that, in most grades and subjects, more than half of Massachusetts students scored below the new “meeting expectations” level.  The likely result of this will be more pressure to focus narrowly on increasing test scores, which will further narrow our curriculum and harm our students.

These results raise important questions that we hope will be asked and answered in the coming days and weeks:

1) A 2015 Mathematica study commissioned by Secretary James Peyser showed that neither the legacy MCAS nor PARCC measured college readiness accurately (scores accounted for only 5% to 18% of the variation in first-year college grades). Why should we expect that this new test will get any more accurate results?

2) DESE reports that Massachusetts students are first in the nation and perform at world-class levels based on a number of measures. Why are we adopting a new exam indicating more than half don’t “meet expectations”?

3) Surveys show that most Americans think there is too much focus on standardized testing. A recent poll found “little support for standardized testing in contrast to the deep interest in testing by policy makers.” Why then, are we adopting a new, harder exam that is likely to widen test score gaps and increase the focus on narrow standardized tests?

4) Isn’t it time we consider 25 years of evidence showing that our test-based accountability system is perpetuating a “charade,” as Harvard Professor Daniel Koretz calls it, and the pretense that we can test our way to quality and equity in public education?

Sarah Nathan