fb-pixelThe 2020 school year in flux - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

The 2020 school year in flux

In this 2018 file photo, a seventh-grade advanced math teacher in Hopkinton leads students in preparation for the MCAS. With the 2020 school year affected by the coronavirus, Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley made the unprecedented move to cancel the spring MCAS exams Friday night.Janet Knott

It’s offensive to call teachers groups ‘self-interested’

Re “No need for Beacon Hill to cancel MCAS or Boston-state school partnership” (Editorial, April 9): In the middle of a pandemic, when children are wondering what will come next, when their families are scared and economically struggling, when students don’t have direct access to the very teachers who support their learning, why would the Globe choose to accuse teachers’ organizations of being “self-interested” when they question the appropriateness of MCAS testing at this time?

As an educator in an urban district, I speak to teachers or meet with them online every day. They are at home, calling individual families and children to identify food needs and offer emotional support. They are volunteering at food distribution centers for their students. They are rapidly organizing to prepare distance-learning lessons that work for children at all grade levels, K-12. And they are collaborating to figure out how the most vulnerable students — those who do not have Internet or distance-learning devices at home, or who are learning English, or who receive special education services — can possibly have equitable access to instruction. “Self-interested” is the last word that comes to mind.

Nancy Meacham



A pandemic is no time to press ahead with testing

Editor’s note: Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley canceled this spring’s MCAS exams Friday night, after Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill giving Riley the authority to do so.

It is developmentally inappropriate and socially irresponsible to offer MCAS testing during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been a union member of an American Federation of Teachers affiliate and a senior leader at education nonprofits that make most union leaders cringe. This is common sense.

Most families are focused on food and shelter, while trying to support their children’s learning from home. In Boston Public Schools, 58.3 percent of students face economic hardship, 85 percent are people of color, and more than 50 percent experience trauma, including a 10 percent homeless rate. Boston neighborhoods where the rate of COVID-19 is the highest greatly overlap with the students described above. Aren’t our students being tested enough right now?


Whether you’re pro- or anti-testing, we need to think about our children. Be realistic that we may not go back to school in May, and plan for the summer and fall to ensure that gaps don’t persist for our most vulnerable student populations.

Brandy Fluker Oakley


The writer is a partner in The Management Center, a consultancy to social-change organizations, and a candidate for state representative in the 12th Suffolk District. Her views expressed here are her own.

Education commissioner needed the flexibility to make this call

The editorial board got it exactly right with its editorial “No need for Beacon Hill to cancel MCAS or Boston-state school partnership.” The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, a longtime advocate of school accountability and MCAS, supported the bill that gave the education commissioner the flexibility to modify administration of the assessment this spring.

Decisions about suspending MCAS should not be made lightly, since it is an essential tool for ensuring educational equity, which is of the greatest importance, particularly at this time. We agree that it may be necessary to allow for flexibility on the competency determination for current 12th-graders, but this decision should be made in real time by the commissioner, not the Legislature.

The state’s number one focus at this time must be developing and implementing a strategy to move learning forward for all students. Many districts have demonstrated that it’s possible with the right tools and support, but a broader, comprehensive plan for remote learning that is universal and sustainable must designed and implemented. We are deeply grateful to those teachers across the state who are on the front lines and adapting to the new reality. We stand ready to support our schools in moving learning forward.


Ed Lambert

Executive director

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education


Unions were trying to capitalize on a crisis

Children and families in the Commonwealth are struggling. Schools are closed with no reopening in sight. Now was not the time for the teachers unions and their allies to capitalize on the greatest crisis our nation has faced in a generation to advance a longstanding political agenda (“Teacher unions push to cancel MCAS testing,” Metro, April 4).

As an organization on the front lines in 17 different communities across the state, Massachusetts Parents United is in constant contact with parents and families who say their top priorities include paying bills after losing their jobs; securing resources for their children with special needs; getting information from school districts translated into their own languages; finding help to overcome digital literacy issues, if they can even manage to get equipment to connect to the Internet; gaining access to food; and getting or keeping a roof over their heads.

None of these families expressed concern about the MCAS exam.

That teachers unions would take advantage of this moment, while families are scrambling for survival, illustrates their priorities.


Keri Rodrigues


The writer is president of the National Parents Union and founder of Massachusetts Parents United.