The Need to Preserve the MCAS

The Massachusetts High Technology Council is concerned by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s proposal to require districts to test against new multi-state Common Core Standards given the likelihood that new standards will undermine – if not eliminate – the MCAS exam. The MCAS exam is regarded as the gold standard for national education assessment systems. Since its introduction, Massachusetts has consistently topped the nation in a variety of educational assessments and has shown it can measure up against the world’s best.

There is no evidence that adopting Common Core Standards, as state education officials seem poised to do, will improve education in Massachusetts or help us address the state’s significant minority achievement gap. But there is great concern among education reformers that requiring states to add an additional layer of assessment during recessionary budget times will undermine the use of proven MCAS standards. As with any one-size-fits-all system, CCS standards ultimately will settle toward the middle on a scale of rigorousness. That means Massachusetts unduly risks falling back to the pack of other states and slipping further behind top education competitors in Europe and Asia.

The Massachusetts High Technology Council supports the state’s reluctance to endorse a separate set of federal standards as part of its re-application for a Race to the Top federal stimulus funds competition and similarly urges it to resist the lure of any short-term financial or political gain that adopting Common Core Standards might yield and instead redouble its commitment to the proven standard of the MCAS.

Massachusetts students and teachers deserve more than a “common” educational system. MCAS is an uncommon system that must be preserved.

*Anderson is the former chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education (now called the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education).