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July 26, 2008

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Education For ALL

I belive the MCAS scores should count towards a childs graduation. We have thrusholds to meet and at this age, it is a good beginning for them to finally learn that this is the real world and it only get worse.

Somerville n00b

Totally agreed. Also, it's spelled "thresholds". :)

Courtney O'Keefe

As a former educator, I believe wholeheartedly that students should be held accountable. However, MCAS (as it stands now) is merely a political tool used to determince how much funding a school receives.

Here's a challenge: make MCAS pass or fail, and unpublished!

Somerville n00b

Also, it seems to me that MCAS and a lot of these tests are just stupid tests that focus on memorization of little facts. Nothing against acquiring the discipline required to learn a ton of facts, it is a necessary part of learning. However, that should be only half of the test. The other half should focus on applying those notions and facts to new problems requiring generalization skills. This way, there would pressure in school to work on these critical skills as well.

Warder

The printed story does not really talk about the value of the test other that it is supposed to show how accountable students and teachers are. Which says to me: The goal of the test is to help the state judge the schools and the teachers.

The test, in essence, defines the curriculum.

Teachers are accountable to implement the set curriculum and their skills or achievement is demonstrated through aggregate test scores

Students are accountable to learning the curriculum, as implemented by the teacher, and their success is demonstrated through their individual score.

One challenge is that schools break down their classes by a students ability to achieve. This gives us AP, honors, a-level, b-level and remedial courses.

So if I understand the accountability process correctly, Teachers of students who achieve most (AP/Honors) will be seen as more successful then those of average and low achievers?

One other possibility is that we will push students towards mediocrity which would not be fair to them. Education is to enable students to be the best, most successful person that they can be. There is an implied understanding that not every child is equally brilliant.

So how do we find a way to "judge" a teachers (and a schools) ability to educate a student. without providing a negative impact on a student?

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n00b has a very good point. Pure memorization does not help someone achieve (outside a standardized test) it is the application of knowledge that will bring our students success in the real world.
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Courtney, I'm trying to understand the value of an not publishing the results or using a pass fail system.

Imux

For Pete's sake, what's with all this wishy-washy BS. The only people against the MCAS are the teacher's union as now teachers have to actually teach kids as they're now being measured. The poor teachers have to actually work 9 months a year now! WAH! WAH! Cry me a river.

And b00b, are you damp? It's a standardization test! STANDARDS!!! You're probably one of those morons who thinks the stress on the poor students having to take a test is just too much!!! Oh woah is me! Quit coddling everyone and trying to please everyone.

Courtney O'Keefe

DOE link: http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/mcas.aspx

You can narrow it down to the actual school and even down to the question. How are they being held accountable if it's this easily manipulated? Administrators take this information and accomodate low-scoring students to bring them up to par. However, is that a good idea? Read on...

Teachers should be holding their students accountable and basing their testing on the current curriculum frameworks that are required by the state. When you truly look at it, all MCAS does is test them on problem-solving and writing. The frameworks go further and expect more than that from students. Do you mean that MCAS does not parallel the frameworks? Say it ain't so!!

You're right, the test judges the schools and teachers. Here's the catch, the higher the scores, the less money they receive. Although teachers in MCAS successful schools are considered "highly qualified," they are at more risk of losing their jobs. MCAS successful schools are at risk of receiving less funding. Would you want to teach towards the test? I would want to get the lowest grades in the state, so I could meet my budget every year...maybe even surpass it.

Wait a minute, though, what about those kids who have to graduate? What if they study for MCAS and then they do well on it? Damn! That will ruin our budget! Should we teach towards the test, but only teach them how to be average or just below average? Should we teach them to just pass the test? When should we start teaching them this way? Young?

Pass/fail and unpublished means that schools get only basic information given specifically to the superintendant. You passed MCAS...good job! You failed...do better. You don't even need an excel spreadsheet for it.

Courtney O'Keefe

My overall frustration with MCAS is that it is easily manipulated. Merely going to the DOE site gives you a categorized viewing of MCAS results. So categorized that if you keep clicking, you can get the actual question that was on the test.

How is this holding students accountable if the test is clearly used every year/other year and available online with answers and tips to pass it proficiently? Furthermore, it must cost good money to get such in-depth results. Lets cut costs and give them a pass/fail grade with no link to the actual question. Students' final exams are not set up this way. Wait...I think I'm on to something!!

I believe wholeheartedly that students should be held accountable for their learning, but an easily manipulated and funding affecting test on top of final exams and college applications (for seniors) is not the way. MCAS does nothing, but take the creativity of teaching out of the classroom and replace it with a six-hour review on the process of elimination and writing.

Maybe this is why Massachusetts pays their teachers so poorly? The way they see it, is that MCAS takes the place of actually keeping the lesson plans of teachers paralleled with the standards and frameworks required by the state. All teachers have to do is teach towards this test, but still be expected to gain Master's degrees and further education to accomodate the needs of their students. It's so unbalanced.

Is teaching towards the test worth it, though?

Who would want to teach towards something that could potentially cost them their job? It is true that teachers who are employed at MCAS successful schools are considered "highly qualified," however they are more likely to lose their job because of funding cuts to accomodate for struggling school systems. So, what do they do? Should they teach towards the test and cross their fingers they won't get pink slipped? Or, do they not teach towards the test and risk causing an increase in the already growing drop-out rate?

Get rid of MCAS all together! The argument of not making it a graduation requirement is just the beginning.

Warder

Courtney, you bring up a lot of good points. But I don't think we can forget about what the test provides. The value of the test is that it evaluates schools evenly and allows the DOE to understand which schools are being the most effective. How the results are used once they are received by the school can help the school identify which teachers are being the most effective.

I think this is important and should continue to be used as a tool to do this. I also agree that students should meet a level of proficiency prior to being allowed to graduate, and one of the only ways you can do this is through this kind of testing.

The dilemma comes form the fact that funding is tied to the results and that higher performance is not "rewarded".

Our educational system needs to become more efficient if we are to continue to succeed as a society. MCAS is one part of measuring that efficiency. The system is far from perfect and can continue to evolve into something better, but taking away the tools to measure progress will only limit progress

Courtney O'Keefe

Think about that for a minute, warder. A child (who hates MCAS to begin with) taking a test determines whether or not the teacher is effective? You mean to tell me that it's up to the student?

Furthermore, Do you realize the data does not prove this? Most of the struggling schools that had significant warnings/failures in 2007, also had the high numbers in 2006 and 2005.

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