October 17th we will see the release of the full report on how kids in Massachusetts did on MCAS 2.0 — and all hell is breaking loose already following an initial release of base information last week.
One in two Massachusetts elementary and middle school students who took the controversial “next generation MCAS” test failed to meet expectations, according to an early review of English and math scores presented to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“The standards we adopted in 2011 are aggressive,” Lee said. “They want you to move through the curriculum quickly… Partially meeting expectations means you didn’t meet all the expectations. That means they are not ready to move forward without some remediation. If they keep falling behind, they may not be ready for success in college. That is ultimately where this leads.”
Knowing whether our kids are ready for success in college. That’s information I need as a parent.
“This isn’t because we have failing schools,” said Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson. “This is because we want to make sure our kids are ready for college work. When we have 80 percent of kids scoring proficient and then needing college-remedial work, we’re not doing them any favors.”
But according to the edu-mafia that sucks all the oxygen out of every education policy discussion in Massachusetts, whether kids are prepared for college work is beside the point. What REALLY matters is how they feel about whether or not they are prepared.
Wait — what?
37% of our kids are forced to take remedial courses when they get to community college (and that number DOUBLES in a four year school) clearly kids aren’t prepared. Isn’t this information that we would WANT to have so we can like, fix it?
And of course, the excuses are flooding in:
Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni said: “The idea that student test scores could vary so greatly shows this is not about the students … It’s about the test. It is so clear the test is not telling us meaningful information.”
And how convenient! Just in time for the new results to be released, my State Senator Pat Jehlen has proposed a bill based on the idea that telling the truth about underperforming schools may lead to hurt feelings, so we should just lie to them so we can all feel better about the inadequate education we are providing children in urban districts.
“It is very, very bad for students, teachers, schools and communities to have schools labeled based on a measure that really measures income and not school quality,” state Sen. Patricia Jehlen told the Herald. “It is not assistance to tell them they are failures and that their teachers are failures.”
Jehlen’s bill would require the state Department of Education to use a measure called “growth” to calibrate school quality.
The state now largely designates schools as high-performing or underperforming, giving them a ranking from 1 to 5, based on MCAS test scores.
Rather than rank schools on how well students score on tests, the measure would weigh how fast kids are learning throughout the year, Jehlen said.
Jehlen’s bill misses the entire point. It’s not an injustice to tell someone their school is failing. It’s an injustice to allow the school to fail them and ignore it.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth:
Poor kids CAN learn.
Latino kids CAN learn.
Black kids CAN learn.
But when you put them in schools that are falling down, with inexperienced/bad teachers and not enough resources, they are set up to fail.
That doesn’t mean we stop trying to address the problem.
That doesn’t mean that we stop trying to achieve the same outcome for them that their white counterparts achieve.
That doesn’t mean that we make excuses for our lack of ability to support them in meaningful ways and instead of demanding proficiency and excellence as a matter of JUSTICE, we cop out and settle for “growth” as a resignation to failure.
It’s not enough to show growth. We need to do whatever it takes to get kids to proficiency.
They deserve it, they are entitled to it and frankly, anything less is racist and NOT equitable.
Meanwhile, all of this is swirling around the media, we were all treated to yet another bizarre outburst by the AFT Representative to the Leading the Nation steering committee at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
(To begin, I’m not sure why the AFT even bothers to come to the meeting. The steering committee is developing programming to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the education reform bill of 1993 that put Massachusetts on a path to become #1 in the nation in education. That didn’t happen because we clicked our heels together three times and cried out for better schools. It happened because of a very specific set of measures, investments and reforms that transformed the system into what it is today.
Is it perfect? Hell no. We have a long way to go and Education Reform 2.0 needs to happen STAT to address the massive achievement gaps we see in urban districts and elsewhere. But to listen to the AFT, education reform in Massachusetts has led us down the path toward doom and destruction. And frankly, they clearly hate participating.)
Conversation around the table quickly turned to the article in the Boston Herald — and the MCAS results set to come out October 17th.
“Can you imagine how those kids feel to be told that they are not ready for college and are not doing work on grade level? What that does to their spirit and self esteem?”
I couldn’t hold it in.
“Can you imagine how those kids feel to be told that they ARE ready for college and are doing work on grade level only to arrive at college and find out that they are NOT? What happens to their spirit and self esteem THEN? Isn’t that the real injustice that we are talking about here?”
The room fell silent. The wonderful director of this special initiative from DESE tried to move us along in the conversation, but tension hung thick in the room.
I walked outside quickly after the meeting so I could make my way to our next chapter meeting in Springfield and was literally greeted with several high-fives for speaking up.
But why was I the only one?
What is everyone so afraid of?
Why have we allowed this insanity to dominate the conversation in education?
We have allowed ourselves to be manipulated into a situation where the instant gratification of “feeling good” about outcomes actually outweighs actual outcomes for kids.
Frankly, as a parent, sure — I want my kid to be an joyful learner. But I also want my children to have a joyful LIFE. And lying to my children about being prepared for college, technical training, a skilled trade, a JOB — leaving them without the adequate foundation they need to have a successful life where they can thrive and prosper is NOT the path to a joyful existence. It is a path to struggle, continued hardship and poverty.
Not. Good. Enough.
What do you think?