WHY THE MCAS HURTS

WHY THE MCAS HURTS
Brookline Tab -- May 8, 2002
Guest Commentary
by Dana Monnier, Emma Stoskopf-Erlich, Riva Lencer, Irene Behrman,Adam
Stoler, Alessandro Ascherio

We all feel education is a vital part of life, which is
why we care
so much about what is going on inside our schools. The MCAS takes
away
from the type of learning that is so important to all of our futures.
Classroom days are now spent prepping for tests that are looked
at as an
essential part of a classroom's environment. The MCAS must be
stopped
and boycotting is the most direct and effective way to end the
test.
Many people don't realize how much school time is spent on
the MCAS.
We spend countless hours away from the curriculum working on practice
tests and test-taking techniques. It also takes a lot of time
to do the
test. We will miss three full school days for the test. Those
three days
could be spent in a more productive manner. In those 18 hours,
we could
do a simulation of the entire stock market crash of 1929, read
and
analyze a full act of Romeo and Juliet, and so much more. This
time
could be spent developing critical thinking skills and helping
us
succeed in life instead of succeeding on a short-term pointless
test.
The MCAS is meant to test knowledge. Research studies have
proven
again and again that when schools try to boost test scores, all
you
achieve is surface learning which students won't retain for the
rest of
their lives. To make a real difference in the minds of children,
teachers need to spend long, in-depth periods of time on each
subject.
This is done more in the lower grades than in the higher grades,
where
schools now spend their time cramming for tests such as the MCAS.
The MCAS can also be extremely biased. It has been shown that
students from middle-class white families tend to score better
then
students from other backgrounds. This can be explained by a couple
of
reasons. This country's racial prejudices run deep, affecting
opportunities given to minority students. Additionally, many inner-city
schools have fewer resources than suburban schools, which puts
children
in these schools at an academic disadvantage in terms of standardized
tests. Another relevant concern is that the history portion of
the test
deals mostly with white Anglo-Saxon cultures. This means that
the test
does not equally reflect the cultural heritage of all test-takers,
thus
giving children with European ancestry an unfair advantage over
other
students.
We are also quite concerned with the impact that the MCAS
has on
students who have learning and/or mental disabilities. This test
can
cause particular anxiety and stress for kids who struggle in school.
An
example of this frustration is a kid who wrote on the essay portion
of
the test: " I am sorry. I am too stupid to take this test.
" Another
more disturbed child ripped up his test and screamed. He was given
a
zero, with no exception.
As you can see, we feel very passionate about this issue,
and hope
that the problems brought up in this article are recognized by
the
school board. We need the support of the public on this issue
so that we
are not overlooked as " a few rebellious, lazy students.
"
We would like to leave you with one final thought, should
one
child's fate be determined by a single one-size fits-all test?

The writers are eighth-graders at the Edward Devotion School.