Boston Parents Say No to the MCAS

Monday, April 9, 2001

CONTACT: Eleanor LeCain (617) 983-3436 or
Peggy Wiesenberg (617) 624-5220 (day); (617) 524-5405 (evening)

Most students at Mission Hill School in Roxbury will not be taking MCAS tests this week. Parents of 17 of 22 third grade students have asked the school not to administer to their children the new MCAS third grade reading test. Parents of most fourth, seventh and eighth graders also are saying no to MCAS. As a result, at least 12 of the 15 fourth graders, 8 of 15 seventh graders and 10 of 12 eighth graders will not take the MCAS English Language
Arts writing prompt this week.

According to a survey done by the Mission Hill School Parent Council, 80% of respondents with children in kindergarten through grade three, do not want their children to take the new MCAS third grade reading test. The survey also reveals that approximately 70% of respondents with children in grades K-8 do not want their children to take the MCAS history or science tests. Parents of 46% of those responding to the survey plan to boycott all MCAS testing.

Mission Hill School is one of 130 schools within Boston Public School system. Started four years ago, the school currently enrolls 163 students in Kindergarten through 8th grade, of which 51% are black, 17% are Hispanic, 6% are Asian and 26% are white.

According to Parent Council Co-Chair Margarita Poles of Dorchester, who has children in grades 3, 5 and 8, "The survey response rate was phenomenal and represents all constituencies of the school." Parents of 129 students, or 79% of the school, responded to the survey. Added Poles, "This response rate comes from two years of dialogue and education with parents at Mission Hill School about MCAS."

"Our school is a citywide school. Parents from Boston, Brighton, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, Roslindale, and Roxbury sent in surveys saying that they do not want their children subjected to various MCAS tests," said Peggy Wiesenberg, a member of the Parent Council who worked on the survey.

In February 2001, the Parent Council voted unanimously to endorse a statement, supported by faculty, that "state-imposed MCAS tests are incompatible with the mission, values and goals of the Mission Hill school and undermine our more rigorous preparation for high school. We believe that the MCAS in its present form will cause harm to students in all schools and to education in Massachusetts. Furthermore, we believe that decisions regarding a student's grades in school, promotion and graduation should be made by those most knowledgeable about the child -- family and school -- and not by a State test score alone." The Parent Council used its March newsletter to distribute the MCAS survey, forge a united approach to MCAS and to solicit parent input into school policy.

In March, the Parent Council presented its vote and its survey results to the school's Governing Board. Composed of representatives of parents, teachers and community representatives, the Board makes policy for the school. The Board endorsed the staff/parent council statement and directed the school to send all parents a letter informing them that the Board would respect individual parent's written requests regarding their consent, or withholding of consent, for their child's participation in MCAS testing up until the date of test administration. In late March and early April parents made their written requests known to the school.

"Parents ultimately have the right to decide whether or not to have their children tested and we must respect that," said Bruce Smith, Co-Chair of and one of five community representatives to the Governing Board. "Parental involvement is key to children's education and we must respect parents taking the lead in helping this school move forward."

Some parents from Mission Hill School are working with the Citywide Parents Council and the Boston chapter of the Coalition for Authentic Reform of Education (CARE) to distribute a leaflet for parents and students called "Know Your Rights Graduation and Promotion School Year 2000-2001."Citywide Parents Council works with parent councils throughout the Boston public schools. Boston CARE, a newly formed citywide organization of parents and teachers and students, is working to eliminate MCAS as a graduation or promotion requirement and to create a strong coalition to fight for better schools for all Boston public school students.

Said Eleanor LeCain, Co-Chair of the Mission Hill Parent Council, "We believe in high standards in education; that's why we don't want our children taking the MCAS. Politicians who are making educational policy seem to have forgotten that the purpose of the Education Reform Act was to foster quality education and innovative schools like the Mission Hill School. Why
aren't the State and the City of Boston replicating schools like Mission Hill that have two adults in each classroom of no more than 20 students? Why isn't the Commonwealth investing in a portfolio assessment system like the one we have at Mission Hill?"