Students Need Support, Staffing, and Resources, Not High-Stakes Standardized Testing, to Address the Effects of the Pandemic and Poverty

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In response to the release of results from the MCAS testing that was administered last spring, the 23,000-member AFT Massachusetts released the following statement from AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos:

“The MCAS test, highly correlated with student socioeconomic status, has always been a flawed and unreliable measure of both student learning and school quality. This was never truer than last school year, when the MCAS was administered in a haphazard manner during a global pandemic that exposed and amplified deep social and educational inequities.

“Educators don’t need a standardized test to know that our students have missed out on learning since the onset of the pandemic, or that they need extra help to get back on track academically, socially, and emotionally. In many of our highest-poverty schools, test scores dropped because students lost family members to COVID-19, or because they were supervising their siblings instead of fully concentrating on their own schoolwork, or because they were busy working to keep their family from being evicted. This year’s test results, as they do every year, reflect our failure as a society to support students living in high-poverty districts; they’re not a reflection of our students’ true potential.

“The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is on record saying they will not use 2021 MCAS scores for any high-stakes school accountability purpose. We support that policy and will work to ensure that students are also held harmless for the results of the 2021 tests, especially when it comes to high school graduation.

“Instead of spending time preparing for standardized tests that have limited meaning and utility, our focus this year should be on providing all students with the support, staffing, and resources they need to address both their academic and social-emotional needs — needs that in many cases were exacerbated by the pandemic. With hundreds of millions of dollars in new state and federal education aid coming to Massachusetts, school districts across the state have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to give our students and their families the supports they need to thrive.

AFT Massachusetts will also continue working to advance legislative fixes to our state’s broken assessment and accountability system, such as S.361, An Act establishing a Special Commission to Re-Imagine School Assessment and Accountability, sponsored by Sen. Jason Lewis. It is indeed time to re-think an antiquated system that does more harm than good for our most vulnerable students.”