Quote is Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford, in this op-ed from The Herald News (ht to Monty Neill):
By Scott Lang
Posted Jun 15, 2010 @ 05:28 PM
I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to the graduating class of 2010 at all of the private and religious high schools across the state. These graduating seniors are off to the brightest of futures. They will have every opportunity available to them, as they should, after working hard and meeting all of the graduation requirements set by their schools and approved by the state.
Unfortunately, many of our public school students who successfully completed the same graduation requirements as their peers in Massachusetts private and religious schools will not have the same opportunities in life, because they have been unable to pass an additional hurdle — the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, a graduation requirement imposed since 2003 on only the public school students in our state.
The MCAS graduation requirement, while well-intentioned, simply cannot withstand the weight or scrutiny of its results. We learned last week that 2,933 students who have not passed the science section of the exam will not graduate with their high school class this month.
There are additional students who have not passed either the English or mathematics portion of the test as well.
Since 2003, more than 25,000 public high school students have finished high school without receiving a diploma, only because they did not pass the MCAS test. This is a staggering number that must give us tremendous pause as we consider the consequences for these young people and our communities.
We cannot stand idly by while the MCAS creates a permanent underclass of young people who face bleak future prospects. It is important to note the public high school diploma that is earned by way of the MCAS system has no more weight in the college admissions system than a private or religious school diploma. The MCAS scores are not even reported to colleges and universities.
National data indicate that our public school students in Massachusetts are achieving at the highest level in the country. The current MCAS system is not working when, despite being ranked the best-performing state in the nation, each year more schools join the “needs improvement” list, and each year, more and more public school students across the state finish high school without receiving a diploma.
No one denies the need for setting the highest goals for our students, and everyone believes each child deserves an excellent education, but it is time to make necessary changes to a system that is producing devastating educational collateral damage.
As a result of the MCAS system, the public schools are being strip-mined as resources are poured into a MCAS numbers game that turns our young students into high-stakes test takers rather than well-rounded and educated citizens of tomorrow.
The socio-economic consequences of this system are devastating. Students finishing high school without a diploma will experience an average lifetime earnings loss of more than $366,000, compared to a person with a high school diploma.
Individuals who do not receive a high school diploma because they are unable to pass the MCAS will cost our society hundreds of millions of dollars in direct assistance each year.
These economic consequences, each time one of our children does not meet the MCAS graduation requirement, are tantamount to imposing an ever-rising silent tax on our citizens.
A high school diploma is essential to becoming a productive member of our society. Every individual has an important function in our economy and communities. A surgeon isn’t going to fix your muffler, and the Midas repair person isn’t going to perform surgery, but invariably, they both may give you piece of mind, depending upon the circumstances.
If one of these individuals, however, is denied a high school diploma only because they did not pass a “one size fits all” test, we will all feel the loss of these productive citizens.
We need to give our young men and women every opportunity to join our society in a meaningful, industrious way, not putting up artificial barriers so they have educational dropout status, when they in fact, have not dropped out of school, but have successfully completed their high school studies.
The Department of Education argues that passing an MCAS test is the only way to “validate” having earned a public high school diploma, disregarding the fact that a student has passed all state required subjects for 12 years, taught by certified teachers, just as the private and religious school students do.
These private and religious schools award diplomas to the students who earned them, no MCAS test required. Let’s award our deserving public high school students the same diploma, and watch them excel in our society and communities.
For those who believe the MCAS is the “validation” of high school achievement, let’s award those students who pass the MCAS a designated MCAS high school diploma.
This will distinguish their achievements from those students who don’t take the test, or who are not required to take the test, or students who have failed the test.
Awarding either an earned high school diploma or an earned MCAS high school diploma is the equitable resolution to the disparate treatment of public school students under our current MCAS system.
To prove the heart of the matter, I challenge all pre-MCAS era high school graduates to take the exams. Let’s determine whether we can “validate” our previously earned educational degrees, high school or otherwise.
I would be happy to coordinate an adult MCAS examination for the first 500 adults who reply. Geniuses are not eligible. We will all learn a good deal about “validation” from this exercise.
I look forward to seeing you at the exam, and get ready to turn in your diplomas.