MA Readiness Project Members Criticize Final Report on MCAS and Assessments; Say MCAS Overhaul is Urgently Needed

For Immediate Release, June 23, 2008


Lisa Guisbond 617-730-5445, 617-959-2371 (cell)
Jim Nehring 978-772-9749
David Krane 617-276-6241 (cell)
Ruth Rodriguez-Fay (508) 353-7888 (cell)
Trudy Knowles (413) 562-5337 (home) (413) 572-5724 (work)


Readiness Project Members Criticize Final Report on MCAS and Assessments; Say MCAS Overhaul is Urgently Needed to address Negative Consequences


Members of Governor Deval Patrick’s Readiness Project are expressing disappointment with the Governor’s position to retain the current MCAS assessment system. Responding to Gov. Patrick's statement at today's public meeting on the Readiness Project, six members of the Readiness Subcommittee for MCAS and Assessments charge that Patrick and his advisors have ignored the advice of the grass roots team they assembled. Patrick indicated the current tests and graduation requirements would remain, but there might be additional "assessments," a position contrary to that recommended by the Subcommittee.

The MCAS subcommittee members were appointed by Governor Patrick to make recommendations aimed at improving the MCAS and other assessment practices. The six said they had been honored to serve and fully supported their subcommittee’s consensus recommendations but were unhappy to see them omitted from the final report. They stressed that they were not speaking for the full subcommittee but as individuals.

Lisa Guisbond, subcommittee member and a policy analyst for FairTest said, “The MCAS subcommittee clearly and emphatically recommended that Massachusetts move on from the present MCAS system to a truly comprehensive assessment system using local assessments, including performances and portfolios. We said there is an urgent need to get beyond our overwhelming focus on preparing students for one-size-fits-all standardized tests.”

University of Massachusetts/Lowell Assistant Professor James Nehring, also an MCAS Subcommittee member said, “Research from the last ten years on high stakes testing is clear and consistent.  The practice is bad for kids.  The consensus is so strong that both the American Educational Research Association and the American Psychological Association have posted position statements against high stakes testing on their websites.”

 “The negative consequences of the current overwhelming focus on preparation for standardized tests include narrowed curricula, developmentally inappropriate instructional practices, decreases in student engagement, stagnant achievement gaps and rising minority dropout rates,” said subcommittee member and Winchester second grade teacher David Krane.

Also critical of the final report was subcommittee member Trudy Knowles, professor at Westfield State, who said, “Our subcommittee reviewed the evidence of high-stakes testing’s negative impact on students and teachers. At the college level, we are beginning to see the results of students who have been in this system for eight years.  They know formula writing, they know how to pass tests, but they have great difficulty thinking outside the box, coming up with creative solutions, or drawing conclusions after deeply discussing a topic.”

Subcommittee member Ruth Rodriguez-Fay, Family and Community Outreach Coordinator at Boston Day and Evening Academy, said she was also unhappy that the final report did not reflect the letter and spirit of their subcommittee’s recommendations. “For the sake of educating students of color to their full potential, the sink or swim method of teaching and assessing must be replaced by one that takes into account the difference in learning styles,” said Rodriguez-Fay.

Subcommittee member J. Curtis Jones, Director of the Partnership for Whole School Change, also joined in asserting the importance of the Subcommittee recommendations.

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For a one-page summary of the subcommittee report and recommendations, go to