One More Look at MCAS

Let me first say, and not for the first time, that I support MCAS. I believe that students should acquire certain skills in order to graduate.

Let me also say, as I've told Education Commissioner David Driscoll and my readers before, that I think certain students, including special education and vocational technical students, should have different criterion.

At any rate, I write today because I am appalled at Westfield's recent MCAS scores. This year's senior class is the first to have to pass the tests in order to graduate. 

Only 73 percent of Westfield High's seniors have passed the English and Math parts of the test. And, they have had several opportunities to do so. The state has provided several remedial programs. And, still, almost 30 percent have yet to meet state standards.

I look at smaller schools-Hadley, with 98 percent, Hatfield, with 100 percent. Surrounding cities-Agawam, 88 percent, West Springfield, 76 percent, Gateway Regional, 81 percent. And, close on our heels, Chicopee at 71.Yes, they all have a ways to go too. 

But few schools in the state scored lower than Westfield. Among them, the inner city schools of Springfield (53 percent) and Holyoke (59 percent).

Remember our percentage. It's 73.

In addition to the already mentioned Springfield and Holyoke, the only regular, academic (none-Voke) schools in the state that scored lower were Assabet Valley, Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Chelsea, Fall River, Fitchburg, Lowell, Lawrence, New Bedford, North Adams, Randolph, Revere, Salem, Taunton, and Worcester.

Only 18 schools in the state scored lower than Westfield seniors.

Why will so few of our students get their diplomas this year in Westfield? And what will they do after high school?

Commissioner Driscoll suggests they attend a community college to gain additional skills. Are our colleges prepared for this? Will they have to lower admission standards?

Driscoll is also unrolling a plan for a "certificate" for students who completed their academic work but didn't pass the MCAS.

I guess I should look on the bright side, for a minute, and tell you that the good news is that four-fifths of this year's seniors in the state have passed the test and will get their diplomas.

And the state is offering even more remedial programs to help the remaining be successful.

But, why are our Westfield students failing?

Maybe, because those that fail, have a higher absentee level than other students. Perhaps they just don't care, or think it's not important, or figure that the state will change graduation requirements.

Is it because students that should be in remedial programs just don't go?

Do our teachers and school committee and administration believe in the test?

If it is true (and it is) that well-off parents in upscale communities put more emphasis on education than poor, inner city parents, why shouldn't Westfield do better? 

Not given a chance? They've had three chances, so far, to pass the test. This is a tenth grade test.

New program? No, the curriculum has been developing over almost a decade. And, I might add, a huge influx of state education dollars.

Unfair? No, test experts have repeatedly looked at the test and been satisfied.

I will ask the question once more.

Why will so few of our students get their diplomas this year in Westfield?

Please tell me.

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