Saturday, June 18, 2011

No, please, tell us what you really think

Kudos this week to Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford (and, I have to imagine, his staff) for his complete, well-written, exhaustively researched response to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's District Review. If you care about education, particularly urban education, in Massachusetts, it's worth reading.
I received it in an email; I've posted it as a Google doc here.

A taste (from page 21,22):
A word about the MCAS: A critical part of any discussion about the graduation and dropout rates in New Bedford or any other Massachusetts city or town is the MCAS requirement. From 2003 to 2010, an estimated 25,000 Massachusetts public high school students finished high school without receiving a diploma, only because they did not pass the MCAS test. These students are all labeled “dropouts,” despite their having stayed in school, passed their classes, and participated fully in extracurricular
activities. And while there are no firm statistics, it is undeniable that an additional portion of the high school dropout rate is attributable to students who left school because they feared they could not pass the MCAS and/or found the countless hours of MCAS preparation to be mind numbing. DESE recommends that New Bedford analyze “whether and to what extent classroom instruction is a factor in the lack of student engagement in school,” but New Bedford already knows that one reason for any disengagement is the necessity of extreme focus on MCAS preparation. Depriving students of high school diplomas solely because of MCAS failure is inequitable and is creating an educational caste system. Private and parochial schools are exempt from the MCAS. Their students, who number well over 100,000, receive high school diplomas regardless of whether they could have passed the MCAS. Further, colleges and universities, whether public or private, do not consider MCAS scores when they evaluate candidates for admission. Thus, private school students, parochial school students, and out-of-state students who could not pass or do not take the MCAS could gain admission to a Massachusetts public or private college or university, while a Massachusetts public school student who achieved everything that the others have but did not pass the MCAS, cannot.
The MCAS requirement for high school diplomas is also bad economic and social policy. The students who do not receive high school diplomas because they did not pass the MCAS are relegated to the same class of wage earners as those who have chosen to drop out of high school. Without high school diplomas, it is highly difficult for these students to find jobs paying living wages, which in turn reduces the taxes they pay for services and increases their reliance on public assistance. Further, because minority and low income students fail the MCAS at higher rates than their peers, the MCAS requirement is perpetuating and exacerbating racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities.

1 comment:

Neil and Joan said...

This is great. It sounds like they hired Jim Caradonio to write it because many of the responses were very similar to ones his administration presented to DESE (DOE) staff prior to this administration's current "love fest" with DESE.