The state of Massachusetts has said to high school students -"Nice try, but no cigar. The MCAS is in your future":
The state's highest court refused yesterday to block the use of the MCAS exam as a graduation requirement, dealing a blow to high school students who are suing to abolish the controversial test. The Supreme Judicial Court denied a request for an injunction to stop the state from giving the high-stakes exam pending the outcome of a lawsuit, saying an injunction "would undermine educator accountability and hinder education reform."
The ruling is the latest development in a class-action lawsuit over the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System that contends that the test unfairly discriminates against minority, special education, and other students who have not been adequately prepared for the exam.
To be honest, it's probably true that some students haven't been adequately prepared. But the fact that minority and special ed students do worse on the MCAS is not evidence that the test "unfairly discriminates." There's differential impact, but the test may still be fairly identifying who knows the material, and who doesn't.
Characterizing the SJC ruling as a minor setback because it dealt with only a small portion of their case, lawyers for the students say they are not abandoning their efforts to have the MCAS declared unconstitutional....Meanwhile, state officials are hailing the decision as a sign of more favorable rulings for MCAS.
Apparently, the lawyers tried to argue the exit exam focused "too narrowly" on English and math. What should it focus on - painting and music? Chemistry and geography? The argument that a test that measures the two most basic educational skills is too "narrow" doesn't make sense to me.
...the judges ruled that MCAS legislation gave state officials discretion to phase in subjects such as history and science "in a reasonable manner and on a reasonable timetable."
In addition, the ruling said, state officials "could properly conclude that a student should have competence in `reading, writing, and arithmetic' before being tested on competence in science, history, and other areas."
Meanwhile, lawyers are preparing for trial in state court on the rest of their case against the MCAS requirement, and are amending their complaint to include arguments that the test also discriminates against students enrolled in schools that were declared "underpreforming" by state and federal government.
"Students attending underperforming schools are students who have not been adequately taught material of the exam," said Godkin. Students cannot be expected to pass an exam based on materials they have not been taught, Godkin argues.
Withholding high school diplomas from students who pass all other graduation requirements violates their constitutional rights, he said.
Okay, let me get this straight. The MCAS is allegedly a "narrow" test, and we know it tests only English and math. Kids at underperforming schools are being denied these skills by their teachers, as evidenced by MCAS scores. They are not learning basic English and math skills.
And in response, these plaintiffs wants to claim both that the tests are "unfair," because they're measuring what they're supposed to be measuring, and that kids from underperforming schools, who haven't mastered basic English and math, deserve diplomas. My head is spinning. If the MCAS is "unfair" because kids haven't learned the material, why should we assume they should be allowed to graduate? And where in the constitution does it say that these, or any, students have the right to a diploma?Posted by kswygert at January 28, 2004 08:53 PM