BURLINGTON - The School Committee unanimously supported a resolution to place a moratorium on high-stakes testing for the next three years, including the annual Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test.
The MCAS and High-Stakes Testing Resolution has been formally supported by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), reinforcing language that such testing this year would be inappropriate given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous school committees throughout the state have formally supported the resolution.
Among the concerns listed are that remote and hybrid learning have had a negative and disproportionate impact on all students, including students with learning disabilities, students who come from low-income households, students for whom English is not their first language and students who identify as minorities; the social and emotional toll on students as a result of shutting down the schools in the spring has not yet been fully realized; and that valuable face-to-face instructional time has already been lost.
The test is typically a graduation requirement, but the committee expressed support for allowing the School Administration to enact its own judgement on graduation requirements for this year.
“I am not against assessment testing, in general, but I think we have very good measures of student progress in our district,” School Supt. Dr. Eric Conti avowed to the School Committee during its most recent virtual meeting. “There are lots of logistical impacts of MCAS this year, and it is no fault of the students that their education has been disrupted by a pandemic.”
Dr. Conti further noted the ultimate goal of the resolution and a moratorium on high-stakes testing for the next three years is to “prioritize getting kids back on track” in terms of the traditional curriculum process.
“The resolution makes sense,” he emphasized.
The three-year moratorium would allow all current high school students to get through their school careers without having to worry about the test, while also ensuring that last year’s sophomores will not be responsible for taking the test they missed during a time when they should be focused on finishing high school and preparing for college. Last year’s sophomores, this year’s sophomores, and next year’s sophomores would not have to partake in high-stakes testing.
School Committee member Martha Simon pointed out how much prep work there is for the MCAS test, which takes up a significant portion of a school year. In a year where students are learning in a mix of remote, hybrid, and in-person models and the year has already been reduced by 10 days, she said that testing would have significant impacts on instructional time.
Within the last two weeks, the state’s education commissioner confirmed MCAS will be taken for diagnostic purposes, not accountability. One of the hazy parameters is the test for grades K-8 will be shortened, but Dr. Conti “does not know why.”
He added, “We are still waiting on logistics, such as where will the students take the test, whether it be at home, or not. I just know it will be a modified test. The state has come halfway with this, but I still support taking a stance on the moratorium.”
The committee members echoed Dr. Conti’s feelings on moving forward with the adoption of the resolution.
“The state has moved a little on this, but I still feel it is an important message to send from our standpoint,” remarked School Committee member Tom Murphy.
School Committee member Carl Foss is a strong proponent of the resolution and favors how it is ultimately geared towards the judgement of local school officials.
“One thing I really like about the resolution is the local control aspect,” he declared. “I like that we get to determine the graduation requirements, not the state.”
The committee unanimously voted to adopt the resolution during its formal second reading.