The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System has recently come under intense scrutiny following a proposal by state lawmakers to eliminate the test as a graduation requirement for high school students.
In a series of interviews, experts in public policy and psychometrics – the psychological study of educational measures – at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, explained why they believed he less emphasis needed to be placed on diagnosis. testing.
Paul Reville, professor of education policy and administration at HGSE, explained that current concerns about MCAS exams are due to its “high stakes” nature.
“I think most of the controversy around MCAS centers around whether or not there should be issues. Now, in general, psychometricians agree that it is inappropriate – inappropriate – to attach high stakes to a single test, ”Reville said.
Andrew D. Ho, Professor of Education at HGSE, who sits on the MCAS Technical Advisory Committee, said that speaking only of his capacity as a teacher, it is the way the exams are used, rather than their content, that determines whether they are “Good or Bad.”
“You can always take what is a ‘good test used for a good purpose’ and then immediately make it bad by trying to put very high stakes on it, for example, without sufficient evidence to support that use,” Ho said. .
In addition to the issues related to the issues involved, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said focusing exclusively on diagnostic testing takes away the ability to examine other issues that schools and students face, especially those in districts with a higher population of color.
“Schools in communities of color do not have the same resources,” Najimy explained. “They have fewer teachers, so they have bigger classes. They don’t have full-time librarians or nurses in the schools.
“And yet, MCAS has become the sole measure of student performance, rather than looking at what resources students need to be successful,” she added.
Ho said he advocates for a model in which testing moves away from “high individual stakes” and moves towards a system that works on improving issues of inequality in education.
” We must change [testing] to the surveillance quadrant, away from high individual stakes and unattainable goals, to a surveillance system that allocates support where it is most needed and deserved, ”Ho said.
Najimy called for assessments that not only measure student performance, but also address issues that hinder healthy school environments.
“We should definitely measure student performance, but we need to start measuring the quality of schools,” Najimy said. “So it’s things like, ‘What are the construction conditions? Are the ventilation systems under full repair so they can control mold and airborne illnesses, like the flu and like Covid? “
Najimy also said the programs should be overhauled.
“We absolutely have to start evaluating the program. Does our curriculum represent the multiple identities our students have? And is it a program that reflects the richness of cultures and the assets they bring to the school? Najimy said.
Reville said he believes attempts to tackle issues of inequity in schools in Massachusetts and beyond have generally been ineffective.
“We haven’t been very effective at the federal, state, or even local level in addressing pockets of chronic underperformance, and that’s where we need to step up our investments and build our capacity, and do much better than we do. ‘have done, “said Reville.
– Editor Omar Abdel Haq can be contacted at [email protected]