Sunday, June 16, 2024

I am a member of the Cambridge Retired Educators group that came together to protest the use of MCAS as a requirement for high school graduation. I joined the group as a primary education teacher in public schools for 45 years. I saw the impact of standardized curriculum alongside the increased use of standardized testing in grades as young as kindergarten and felt the need to become involved. 

One of my grandchildren who is in kindergarten came home frustrated one day that she could not neatly copy three sentences from the board onto her paper, which I knew takes fine motor control. Her sister, who is in second grade, recently started complaining that her head hurts on Tuesdays and Thursdays when working on iReady, a reading and math computerized program that Cambridge implements in the second through fifth grades. It breaks my heart to hear Bianca talk about it, especially knowing that in the near future Cambridge kindergarten classes will likely implement another computerized program to evaluate the students.

Years ago the book and phrase “Everything I Know I Learned in Kindergarten” was popular. Children learned about sharing, respect for others and problem-solving. The methods labeled as good practice would change over time, but we were always encouraged to maintain high expectations for students while observing them closely as they explored and discovered the world. While we taught age-appropriate skills and used ongoing assessments, we knew we had to make room for the many ways children learn and the many different timetables that they operated on. 

I continue to have great respect for teachers today and know they have challenges I never had to face. But the pressure on Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System readiness and computerized assessments that get pushed down from one grade to the one below cannot be ignored. As we work toward ending MCAS as a single graduation requirement, maybe we could bring out our old posters that say “Everything I Know I Learned in Kindergarten” and practice what we preach.

Sally Benbasset, Henry Street, Cambridge