Friday, June 14, 2024

Kudos to the Cambridge School Committee for unanimously endorsing the Thrive Act, which, if enacted, will allow deserving students to get a high school diploma even if they fail the MCAS test. Massachusetts is one of only eight states requiring students to pass a high-stakes test as a condition for a high school diploma, and passage of the Thrive Act is long overdue. Providing students with multiple pathways to show proficiency will serve to incentivize students rather than stigmatize them unfairly.

Much has been said how MCAS adversely affects the most marginalized students. We need to see hard data on how many students drop out of school because they haven”t passed the test. Parents and students need an opportunity state how it creates stress and poor self-image. Is the MCAS making schools, teachers and students more accountable and, if so, at what price?

We also need to assess how an MCAS-driven curriculum adversely affects all student, including many labeled “proficient” but who end up taking remedial courses in college. My own experience teaching for more than 25 years in Brookline High School (I am now retired) is that MCAS testing had little diagnostic value and was largely a waste of time. Counselors did less counseling; teachers did less teaching; students spent less time learning. Because the test is untimed, whole days were lost, not just the few hours of scheduled testing.

Charting student progress and making schools accountable are worthwhile goals. But measuring success by a flawed metric is clearly not the way to achieve this and only obstructs the quest for authentic assessment.

Richard Goldberg, Harvard Street