Wednesday, May 22, 2024

As a member of the Retired Teachers of Cambridge, a group that formed a number of months ago in opposition to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System of assessment, I was handing out stickers to students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School saying: “I am more than a test score” the day before they were taking the MCAS. Actually, I was doing more than just handing out the stickers: I was engaging the students in conversation about the test – the 10th-grade graduation requirement that denies students a diploma if they don’t pass it by 12th grade, even if the student has passed all other requirements for graduation. No passing score even after multiple attempts, no diploma.

While I was discussing this particular feature of the 10th grade MCAS and encouraging students to wear their stickers to school the next day, I was astonished to hear from all the students I spoke with that they didn’t know that failure to pass meant loss of a high school diploma. Every single student that I spoke to, without fail, had the same response – complete surprise.

Now, I’m not assuming that all the students at CRLS don’t know this critically important information, but given that none of the many students that I spoke to knew, I have to ask just how the high school is handling communicating this to the school community?

There is legislation being put forth called the Thrive Act that specifically calls for the end of this practice of using the MCAS as a requirement to graduate. The Cambridge School Committee passed a resolution in support of it.

As an educator, and having taught at the King Open School and CRLS, I am well aware of the importance that students, faculty and families place all things critical to a student’s success. While we hope the Massachusetts Legislature will change this unfair requirement, for as long as it stands we expect the administration to take steps to ensure that students understand the high-stakes nature of this test and seek to ameliorate damages to students who weren’t allowed diplomas in the past.

In the meantime, we should all support passing the Thrive Act and work toward ridding ourselves of the whole MCAS assessment system, which has caused so much damage to many students, especially the most vulnerable.

Nella La Rosa-Waters, Crescent Street