Letter

Mass. Test Scores Offer Only a Handheld ‘Mirror’

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints

To the Editor:

A letter from Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll ("Mass. Schools Chief Offers ‘Feel-Bad Education’ Cure," Letters, Oct. 27, 2004) said he agrees with Alfie Kohn ("Feel-Bad Education," Commentary, Sept. 15, 2004) that in many classrooms and schools, high-stakes testing has resulted in scripted lessons focused on raising scores, and that this takes the joy out of learning.

The agreement will be news to many in Massachusetts. After all, Mr. Driscoll and the state board of education’s chairman, James A. Peyser, have cited children’s tears over the state exam as proof that “real learning” is finally taking place. In 1999, Mr. Driscoll told The Boston Globe, “There’s a lot of pressure. Fourth graders are crying, but that’s the way the world is.”

Until now, state education leaders have conveyed the message that the high-stakes test is a necessary solution to unfocused instruction and low expectations. It’s a step in the right direction if Mr. Driscoll now views such rote instruction as a problem. But it seems disingenuous to press teachers to teach to the test and then blame them for taking the joy out of learning.

It’s troubling, too, that Mr. Driscoll believes the state test scores mirror the true picture of education in Massachusetts. As many parents and teachers already know, if the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System is a mirror, it’s a handheld one, reflecting only one small part of what’s happening in our schools. What the MCAS mirror doesn’t capture includes rising attrition and grade failure, particularly among minority students. It leaves out schools’ de-emphasizing or eliminating art, music, physical education, recess, even science. And it fails to show an increasingly undemocratic oversight of public education.

Mr. Driscoll uses the analogy of cheating dieters who wonder why they aren’t losing weight. Here’s my analogy: It’s as if a weightlifter had decided to work on his biceps to the exclusion of the rest of his body. The handheld mirror shows improving tone and muscle mass. Meanwhile, the rest of his body is in poor shape. Massachusetts and the rest of the country need a mirror that takes in the whole picture, not just math and English test scores.

Lisa Guisbond
National Center for Fair &
Open Testing (FairTest)
Cambridge, Mass.

Vol. 24, Issue 11, Page 37

Published in Print: November 10, 2004, as Mass. Test Scores Offer Only a Handheld ‘Mirror’

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented

Sponsor Insights

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

To Address Chronic Absenteeism, Dig into the Data

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Keep Your Schools Safe and Responsive to Real Challenges

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

3 Unique Learner Profiles for Emerging Bilinguals

Effective Questioning Practices to Spur Thinking

Empower Reading Teachers with Proven Literacy PD

Student Engagement Lessons from 3 Successful Districts

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >