In 1999 the National Academy of Sciences stated that “no single test score can be considered a definitive measure of a student’s knowledge.” (www.scam-mcas.org) The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) is a test given to students in the fourth, eighth, and tenth grades. Starting with the class of 2003, students are required to pass the MCAS test in order to graduate. The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 called for multiple forms of assessment to determine the quality of a student’s education. (www.scam-mcas.org) The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) violates the Massachusetts Education Reform act of 1993 by failing to thoroughly assess.
The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System does not test the important abilities set in the state curriculum frameworks. MCAS does not test the ability to conduct research, work in groups, or present to an audience. It does not test technical or artistic abilities. MCAS tests specific knowledge rather than critical thinking skills. As a result, students are forced to memorize useless facts, just so they can do well on the test. When surveyed, 72% of Silver Lake’s surveyed students agreed that their sophomore year’s curriculum was based mainly on preparing for the MCAS test, and did not provide preparation for the future as well as the other years’ curriculums.
“Everyday we’d be told, ‘OK class let’s put aside what we’re really working on and go over some MCAS questions.’ Learning irrelevant facts for the test took time away from learning things that could actually benefit my future,” comments Silver Lake senior Meghan Pinto.
“Preparing for the MCAS tests was not even like being taught! Useless information was thrown at us. There was so much of it that the teachers didn’t even have time to teach it. We were just told to memorize without forming any understanding,” says Lindsay Park, also a senior at Silver Lake.
MCAS focuses mainly on specific subject knowledge rather than critical thinking skills. In order to prepare students for MCAS teachers need to cover large amounts of information in a limited amount of time. This leaves students little time to develop an understanding of the information, reason, or investigate.
There are no exceptions for students with vocational training, disabilities, or those who are part of alternative programs like bilingual programs and performing art programs. Students who fit these qualifications have scored lower on the MCAS. (www.scam-mcas.org) In some schools many of these programs are being cut just to bring up students’ scores on MCAS. So instead of working towards their career goals, students in the technical or artistic fields are held back by memorizing irrelevant facts.
With pressure upon the teachers to deliver the information to the students and the pressure on the students to memorize it all, whom is to blame for the low MCAS scores? In 1999 results showed that over 50% of Massachusetts students would not graduate if required to pass the MCAS exam (www.scam-mcas.org). It is believed that one of the problems that lead to the low scoring is how many students are not introduced to the material on the test. Throughout the state there are a variety of schools with a variety of budgets. Students who attend low-budget schools do not receive the in-depth education of a well-financed one. Fewer teachers can be afforded, leading to less personal attention and so forth. One’s personal background, specialized skills, abilities, opportunities, talents, and ability to succeed in the future are not even taken into account by MCAS. The MCAS test does not use multiple forms of assessing students.
On the contrary one may say that the MCAS tests students on what they should know with a Massachusetts education. The Massachusetts education system does not want uneducated students entering the real world. It is a good test of the teaching abilities and a good test of the education plans. Yet, the question lies in this: Does the material on MCAS test one’s ability to succeed in the future?
Since MCAS tests merely one’s academic skills it fails to acknowledge the other criteria one must possess in order to set forth with a bright future ahead of them. The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 is based upon the idea that multiple forms of assessment are needed in order to evaluate the quality of one’s education (www.scam-mcas.org). MCAS is tunnel-visioned. It tests one aspect of students’ abilities. Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System does not use multiple assessments and therefor violates the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993.