Uncovering the Origins of the MCAS

By Denebola
Published: March 2008

By Gabriel Schneider

The state’s MCAS testing methods have been widely questioned regarding their purpose in the school curriculum. Many students and teachers feel that the tests, which are required for graduation, are an impediment to the learning system.
Yet at the root of the MCAS test, are visions with much different intensions than those of the current assessment.
Today, teachers fear they are building a curriculum around the MCAS, as opposed to one based on their own teaching styles and criteria.
The test, however, was founded on three primary purposes explained on the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) website.
Today, the test is often perceived as a misuse of valuable learning time, yet the original intentions explain the rationale behind the test.
The first goal is to improve curriculum and instruction in all Massachusetts public schools for all students including those with disabilities and those with limited English proficiencies.
Next, according to the DOE website, it should “measure performance based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework learning standards.
The Massachusetts Department of Education develops the test yearly according to the different standards set by law.
Finally, it is meant to measure and report the academic performance of students, schools and districts.
For teachers in Massachusetts public schools, preparing students for the test means less time on their own class agendas.
Those who excel on the test are awarded a prestigious scholarship to state colleges around the area, while those who do not can retake the test, if necessary, in order to fulfill graduation requirements.
The results of the test can be exremely rewarding whereas the process itself can be very burdensome.
The MCAS is funded by the state and many argue that the money can be used more effectively elsewhere.
MCAS tests were designed to measure student performance compared to the learning standards in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for all the content areas.
Despite the inconvenience, the MCAS represents a key state institution.

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