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Mass. teachers union: MCAS test ‘has allowed white supremacy to flourish in public schools’

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Mass. teachers union: MCAS test ‘has allowed white supremacy to flourish in public schools’

The state’s largest teachers union is blasting the MCAS test, saying it “has allowed white supremacy to flourish in public schools,” and has endorsed legislation designed to rethink the standardized test.

“Public schools in predominantly Black and brown communities have been taken over by state bureaucrats who have been using standardized testing as a tool not to improve opportunities for students, but instead as one to pry public education from the hands of the families and educators who know best what their students need,” said Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy in a statement.

The MTA argued in a statement that the “high-stakes standardized testing” causes harm to students and schools, and advocated for replacing the tests with “a broader and democratically determined framework to measure school quality, along with more authentic forms of demonstrating student achievement.”

Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang said she agrees. “We have long advocated to replace MCAS with better, more useful tools to measure school quality and student success,” she said in a statement. “The results of MCAS scores have been misused in ways that harm students and schools, instead of getting them the supports that they need.”

The MTA supports legislation by state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and state Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, that would replace the MCAS — which is officially called the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System — and a hearing is scheduled for Monday in the Legislature on the topic.

Hawkins, a retired Attleboro High School math teacher, clarified that his bill would not eliminate testing altogether, because it’s still a useful tool to spot underperforming districts or demographic groups. Instead, he’d like to replace it with something more holistic.

“It was a three-hour test on Monday, a three-hour test on Tuesday, and a two-hour test on Wednesday,” he said. “I never took a test that long to get my MBA. We’re doing this to 15-year-olds. So this is in need of reform.”

Hawkins envisions the new standardized test to not be a sit-down test, but to instead be “performance-based tests, so it would be group work and projects,” he said, though the details of what this new test would look like are still being worked out.

He said this type of test would be much fairer to students who struggle to sit through long tests, and would also better capture a broader breadth of skills beyond strictly academic ones, such as students who are drawn to vocational fields like automotive or culinary programs.

“That doesn’t mean that they haven’t achieved,” he said. “That just means this way of measuring, it doesn’t work through a whole segment of the student population.”

The test, administered by the state annually to assess public school students’ progress and schools’ quality, was suspended in 2020 due to COVID-19. Results from the 2021 testing period are expected on September 21, but experts are already bracing for results showing significant learning loss accumulated during the pandemic.

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