Opinion: Against MCAS

Caterina Tomassini

Students have tons of free time to sit back, relax, enjoy friends and family and pick up new hobbies.

Said no high school student ever.

Between demanding athletic schedules, final exams, essays and projects, students are up to their heads in stress during the spring. So why not add to the list a statewide test that doesn’t impact our grades in the slightest?

Massachusetts students are required to take the Massachusetts Comprehensive Academic System (MCAS) exam in the spring, typically in mid-May or early June. MCAS requires students in various grades to be tested in English and language arts, mathematics and science. The purpose of the assessment is to track the progress of individual students through required material for Massachusetts curriculum.

Since my first MCAS test in fourth grade where we were required to write a long, comprehensive essay, I’ve been told by many teachers that MCAS doesn’t test the student’s knowledge, but rather the teacher’s effectiveness.

Although MCAS may be beneficial for teachers who want to determine which material students need to improve on, it’s not fair to the students. How can anyone read three different stories and write four essays showing their best work within two hours? The time limit on the test doesn’t allow students to represent their best writing skills.

Almost every English teacher I’ve ever had has told the class, “You must start your essay in advance. You can’t write one overnight.” It’s obvious that even teachers know it takes time to write a well-crafted essay, time which we simply do not have during MCAS.

Secondly, we students are fully aware that MCAS doesn’t impact our grade, which gives some students very little motivation to try. I mean, all we have to do is pass, right?

How important can MCAS be if teachers don’t even take time out of class to prepare us for the assessment? I can’t remember the last time a science or math teacher reviewed important concepts that would likely be on the test. We, students, go into MCAS without a clue as to what kinds of things could be on the test. Geometry? Calculus? I guess we’ll find out when we open the booklet…the booklet that covers topics in which all students across Massachusetts should have learned, no matter what level they’re in, right?

High schools offer different course levels that provide a range of coverage for the subject. How is it fair that a student in an introductory class takes the same test as a student whose teacher covered topics in much more depth because they are in an honors course?

MCAS is a test that does not give the student enough time to show their best work, stresses them out for no reason and ultimately has no impact on their grade.

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.