MCAS test has done nothing to improve school quality

Lisa Guisbond, Fairtest | 11/9/2017, 6 a.m.

The Boston students we work with are all too aware of these problems. Why, then, are we adopting a new, harder exam that will exacerbate these problems, widen our already large test score gaps and increase the focus on narrow standardized tests?

Surveys of public attitudes toward education over time show a consensus about what we want our children to get out of school. I speak to different kinds of audiences, and I always ask what people want their children to get out of school. I get consistent answers: that they will make friends and learn how to get along with different kinds of people, that they will develop a lifelong love of learning and will learn how to collaborate, cooperate and resolve conflicts. Parents and community people want children to be exposed to art, music and literature and learn how to think critically about the great issues facing our communities and the world. No one ever says they send their child to school to learn how to take standardized tests in math and reading.

Isn’t it time we listen to 25 years of evidence showing that our test-based accountability system is perpetuating a “charade,” as Harvard Professor Daniel Koretz calls it? Isn’t it time we abandon the idea that we can test our way to quality and equity?

Instead of swapping one bad exam for another, now is the perfect time for Massachusetts to explore better alternatives to narrow standardized tests. We could implement an assessment system using projects and portfolios that measure deeper learning. Most important, communities must discuss what they want children to get from school so we can develop and use assessments and evaluations to achieve those ends.

Time for a new direction, not just a different test.