Guest columnist Kelly Junno: Why MCAS is bad, this year and every year

  • Teresa Barut teaches an honors geometry class at Hampshire Regional High School. Gazette file photo

Published: 2/3/2021 12:32:03 PM

MCAS are still happening. Yep. In order to soften their stance without actually conceding, the state has agreed to reduce the volume of testing for most students and make the test completely optional for seniors.

As a teacher, I think those are positive changes, of course. However, the biggest winner here might be the department of education. They now look like they took the honorable route by lightening the load while still demanding something called “accountability.” In the testing world, accountability is when we confirm which districts are rich and which districts are poor based on their test scores.

In addition to the normal accountability talk, this year the department is particularly curious about something called “learning loss.” Normally this refers to children getting rusty with their academic skills over the summer. However, now that kids have had a six-month summer and then four months of online learning, alarm about learning loss is high.

As an educator and a human being, I’d ask us to reconsider the phrase. Children are always learning. But what are they learning? This year, they learned about viruses and transmission. They learned that it’s more important for bars and bowling alleys to be open than for them to go to school.

When the MCAS roll around, they’ll learn that, while they are normally only allowed to see their friends and teachers in boxes on a screen, taking the MCAS is so important that they will be allowed to be in the building in person for it — at computers and quietly testing of course.

They’ll learn that testing is so important that their parents have to rearrange their schedule in order to take them in for it. For kids who are hungry, homeless, or facing evictions, they’ll learn that, while the school system won’t pay their rent or guarantee food in the fridge, they can guarantee that they will take the test.

Just sit for a minute with the fact that the state of Massachusetts is paying thousands of dollars to a testing corporation for the MCAS. Meanwhile, many of our families cannot afford food and rent. Without any illusions about ending poverty, imagine that the time, money, and energy spent on standardized testing were rerouted to meet human needs — rent and groceries, maybe even COVID testing! Just imagine the learning that would happen then.

We should oppose MCAS this year and every year. To take a stand in favor of canceling the MCAS this year, join the Northampton standout that takes place on Fridays from 3-5 p.m. in front of the courthouse. Bring a sign and wear your mask! 

Kelly Junno lives in Easthampton.

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