MCAS Rampage

The United States seems to be heading towards taking the decisions about American education out of the hands of American educators and instead placing that sacred trust in the welcoming arms of an industry run entirely without oversight and populated completely with for-profit companies chasing billions of dollars in business. – Todd Farley

Dear State of Massachusetts:

I just got my son’s MCAS test scores in the mail. I’m not happy. But I’m not talking about his performance, or that my town’s scores are the lowest in our area. I’m not happy that I even have to deal with this whole ball and chain.

I’m not happy that I have to stand here and look at your evaluation of the quality of my son’s education on a bar graph. I don’t want you keeping records of his scores for the past three years. I don’t want you knowing how proficient he’s been and how much he’s dropped.

I don’t want you using test scores to compare us to other schools. I don’t want you looking at these charts and deciding which school gets more money, and which doesn’t deserve it. Children can’t be quantified. Knowledge can’t be measured by numbers. But these tests have reduced our entire educational system to an attempt at doing just that.

I want my school to teach whole children. I want my kid to go to art class and gym, not “health and wellness.” I want him to have recess. Of course he scored low on data analysis. I don’t even know how to do data analysis.

I don’t want my kids to need counseling to deal with the pressure you’ve been putting on them since they were eight years old to do well on your goddamn tests.

What I do need is his lunch menu. But the school doesn’t print that out for us anymore, I’m guessing because they have no money for paper and toner. And that’s probably because they had to buy all these envelopes and pay for postage on them to send me test results that I don’t care about. Also, I don’t want the staff at my kid’s school wasting hours stuffing envelopes when they could be, oh, you know, preparing curriculum?

At open house they told us that the kids have to keep all their books in the classroom now, because last year they lost a couple and can’t replace them. They’re down to the last of the books. But when you consider that we can’t even afford teachers anymore, I guess the books and lunch menus aren’t our biggest concern.

I want you to stop handing our education budget over to the unregulated for-profit companies and give it back to the schools so my kids can have teachers and books. Please. I’m begging you.

I want you to stop making my kids’ teachers justify their jobs by somehow compelling their students to score high on your tests. The numbers on your paper don’t show a thing about what my kid’s been doing the past three years. Or what he’s dealt with. Or how he’s grown. Or what an amazing human being he is. Or what an asset he is to his classroom. Or the relationship between him and his teachers and what they give to each other.

I want you to think back to a time, not that long ago, when if a student failed it was their fault, not the teacher’s. And not everyone in the school had to be proficient in every subject, because we knew that not everyone could be. And the teacher’s job didn’t depend on it, and they didn’t have to justify their every teaching decision to a computer that’s analyzing a scanned set of bubbles and spitting out meaningless¬†lines on charts.

When you can do that for me, we’ll be all good. But until then, we’re in a fight.

6 thoughts on “MCAS Rampage

  1. Mmmm yes, the dreaded MCAS- I am blissfully and dangerously unaware and this monster is going to smack me in the face.
    My first taste? when my 3rd grade LD son (he uses a computer for writing because his tone is so low that his writing is illegible and literally physically exhausting) came home the first week of school with his simple, modified math homework and the answers were- you guessed it- multiple choice….with bubbles to boot.
    The kicker? he says too me – no Mom, you have to fill in the bubbles!
    (I often scribe for him unless his homework is writing) oh goody- I’M prepping for the MCAS now.
    This may be the thing that makes me walk away and never come back. I’ll take any advice or direction you have!

    • I know….I’m so sorry you have to deal with this worry on top of everything else (but why am I apologizing it’s not my fault LOL). They are supposed to make accomodations for everyone who needs them. But they still test EVERY. Kid. In the school. Autism? No problem you get a test too! It’s insane. I will be here for all your venting needs!!! xo

  2. I’ve worked with schools in Massachusetts for several years, trying to help them use data, especially MCAS data, effectively. I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments.

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