A Student Gives MCAS a Passing Grade

By State Representative Cele Hahn And Summer Intern LeAnne Reid

(Note: It’s fall—and it’s back to school time across the state. Students and teachers alike will once again be working to improve score results of the standardized tests called MCAs. My summer intern is a high school student who took the tests last spring and is waiting for the results. Passing the test, given in 10th grade, is a graduation requirement. My intern is an honor student, entering her junior year in high school, and plans to graduate in 2003. These are her comments on the controversial tests.)

How would you feel if your son or daughter graduated from high school with limited reading and English comprehension skills and only minimum math skills?

The MCAS testing, as many already know, is a very controversial issue. As the class of 2003, we have to pass the MCAS to graduate.

I personally favor the MCAS.

But, first, let me clear up some misleading information about the MCAS test.

To begin with, students are given five chances to take the test and pass before they graduate from high school. It is not a "do or die Test" like some people make it seem. Once you fail the test for the first time you are given the chance to become aware of and repair your problem areas and to pass this test in four more tries. If you fail it for the fifth and final time before you graduate then you are assigned by the state, to go to a community college in your neighborhood and given some courses to help you pass this test.

Furthermore, the MCAS test was not created overnight. Students in the graduating class of 2003 have been taking the MCAS test since elementary school. If students took education seriously back then, it shouldn’t and wouldn’t be a sweat today.

Now that this test counts toward graduation, students are complaining. If sincere, the complaints should have started when they weren’t passing the tests back then.

In addition, the material on the test is incorporated into the curriculum so that students are learning what will be on the test. Good teachers should be able to "teach to the test" and include other materials needed to further a child’s education, as well as make it fun while they maintain the main goal-- helping students pass the MCAS.

The objective of this test is not to see students fail miserably but, in fact, to help students do better.

The minimum standard to pass this test is very low, which also makes it easier for students to graduate. With the assistance of good teachers and dedicated, hard working students everyone should be able to pass it.

Being a student living in the inner city, I’m aware of criticisms of MCAS that claim that inner city youth are at a disadvantage. It is said that we aren’t able to afford any other education other than what public schools provide.

Well that may be true, but we also face other problems that impede our learning like the filthy and run down conditions of our schools, (not enough adequate janitor assistance), some inadequate teachers, and extremely over crowded schools.

I work and learn a lot better in a clean environment. Also, the less students one teacher has to attend to, the better our chances of learning something new and in less time, without being smothered by students who are a little bit brighter. Those may seem like simple and small issues, but it is the little things that make a BIG difference.

Some say that certain students should be exempt from MCAS. I disagree. I personally think students with severe disabilities like mental retardation, Down syndrome, and so on, should have a choice—to take the test but be graded a little differently, or to take a different test composed for students with minimum achievement levels, or to ask to be exempt. I think that the tests and standards should also apply to students who are enrolled in ESL (English as a second language).

If students, beginning in the first grade begin to learn about the MCAS and its importance, and the value of an education, they will prosper and do very well wherever they go to school.

Everyone is capable of learning. It is the effort that students put forward that helps or hinders their learning. I also think that an important aspect of learning is support at home. If students’ families aren’t serious about education, then students will not be enthusiastic about learning either.

Hopefully, with this test in place, parents will be forced to play a part in their children’s education.

This test is a vital part of education for those who want to leave their high school knowing that they at least learned the basics for their grade level.

Testing student’s knowledge is the only way to fairly evaluate if a child is learning and to clearly identify where problem areas are occurring. This test is purely for the benefit of the children who take it. This test should be a graduation requirement because it gives students a goal to reach for and a standard to maintain.

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