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Feature Story: The MCAS

In spring 1998, the Massachusetts School Board introduced the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) to its hundred of public schools across the state. It was required that 8th and 10th graders take the test. I was one of those 8th graders trying the MCAS that spring. I can remember the MCAS as a difficult test both times I took it in the 8th grade and two years later in the 10th grade. It was too long and too frustrating. The open-ended questions greatly confused me. I had to write a rough draft and then a final draft. What was this all about anyway? Until this day, I still don't have a straight answer as to why students across Massachusetts take this test. But I think I can guess the answer to my question. To graduate. Yes, to graduate. Not to expand our minds more, but to graduate. Plain and simple. Like 123. This is just another way to lay down the law and get tough on students. If the school board says they're doing what is best for us, then they have a funny way of showing it because I feel the MCAS is torture. Fortunately, for my senior peers and me, our graduating year is 2002.

About a couple of years after the unveiling of the MCAS, the Massachusetts School Board made it official to pass the MCAS as a graduate requirement starting with the graduating class of 2003. Upon hearing this new policy for graduation, many students, parents, and teachers did not agree and though it does not affect me, I find it very unfair also. Why should some test decide if a student graduates or not? Isn't it bad enough already students work hard to pass their regular school subjects to make an A on their report card? What about the honor students who earn straight A's on their report card but fail the MCAS? Does that make the student a bad student? No, of course not, but its something like the MCAS that can put the extra stress and pressure on students who have enough to worry about when they get to be a sophomore in high school and especially a senior.

There are many questions from those who are against the MCAS. This is neither Boston Public School policy nor a policy from other school districts in Massachusetts. This test is very demanding. As a "guinea pig" for the MCAS, I'd say we deserved sometime to study and prepare.

I would really dislike it if a student could not graduate because of the MCAS. It's too unfair. As of now, the year 2002, grades 3-10 take the MCAS. I hope that someone on the school board will actually take a deeper look at this test, with its many open-ended questions, and see how unfair it is. I know they're trying to do what is in the best interest of Massachusetts' students but give us a break! We're only human with human brains, not a computer.


Here's why the Massachusetts Board of Education thinks we need the MCAS: WHY are these tests important?Evaluation: MCAS results help us measure how much your child is learning and identify areas where extra help is needed. Promotion: MCAS scores help determine whether or not your child is ready to be pronounced to the next grade level. Graduation: Beginning with the Class of 2003, students must pass both the English/Language Arts and Mathematics sections of the MCAS in order to graduate from high school. (Except provided by http://www.bostonpublicschools.com/teach/mcas.asp#when

By: Kimberly Brown