Assessment Reform

Assessment Reform Network

Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education

Student Coalition for Alternatives to MCAS

Fair Test Statement on MCAS

National Research Council [National Science Foundation] Postion of Testing

High Stakes Testing

Grading the MCAS Tests

Appropriate Use of Tests

"You'll Never Be Good Enough"

National PTA on Testing

High Stakes Decisions

School Administrators on Testing

Mass. General Laws [Title XII, Chap. 69]
Clear indications of the extent to which MCAS, the Board of Education, and the Department of Education have exceeded and subverted the law, particularly in Sections E and I

New Democracy ~ MCAS' Corporate-Government Background

Depth Vs. "Coverage" in Teaching and MCAS Prep

Fit the Frameworks to Life

MCAS has clogged up the ed reform pipeline!


MCAS is causing the parallel of congestive heart failure in Massachusetts schools. The heart of learning lies in the core concepts of the disciplines, in the active minds of learners, in the passion and creativity of teachers, in the visionary leadership of administrators, and in the caring support of parents. All of these forces have been clogged up and restricted by a testing program that is comprehensive only in name.

Advanced Systems, the small New England firm that gained the multi-million dollar contract to develop the test began with the good intentions of being a cutting edge evaluation system that could measure difficult to assess levels of understanding. In Vermont and Kentucky, they relied heavily on a Portfolio of works students had produced over the school year, evaluated holistically.

As a “for-profit” company, Advanced Systems tries to keep costs down, employing many young people from the field of tests and measurement, almost none of whom have backgrounds in the subjects they write assessments for. In order to make testing profitable for their company, this organization has gradually moved away from the harder to evaluate higher and deeper levels of understanding, toward the “recognition” level dominated by terminology and “trivial pursuit” lists of “knowledge.”

Improving MCAS? To begin with, it needs to be more COMPREHENSIVE in multiple meanings of that key word. It needs to assess higher and deeper levels of understanding. It can require some assigned tasks that a student will bring to the test, having performed them under school supervision and guidance. Portfolios, projects, exhibitions, and performances are in this category. Advanced Systems needs to be part of a network of assessment that includes parents, students themselves, and teachers. Accountability means not just counting what is easy to enumerate, but looking for indicators of progress toward more comprehensive goals and aims. Advanced Systems has experience implementing Portfolio Assessment, and should be charged with drawing on this to produce a more balanced and comprehensive assessment, addressing the Common Core of Learning goals and the Strands and Guiding Principles of the Frameworks, rather than just the minutiae. Because assessment drives instruction, we have seen the trend in teaching shift to adding coverage of more information, more isolated bits of knowledge. This is what has clogged up the channels of learning and threatened congestive failure in the heart of education. Because assessments drive instruction, comprehensive approaches need to target the kinds of goals and strands in the Frameworks, reflective of educational reform and good teaching.

Until MCAS becomes Comprehensive, it will aim too low and too narrowly to be worth its salt and its name. On its current course, "Advanced" Systems is setting education back and threatening the vitality and viability of reform.


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