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Staring down a crisis in Mass. public schools

Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, speaks last month in Milton before a march against racism.
Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, speaks last month in Milton before a march against racism.Blake Nissen for the Boston Globe

Schools need more money, and a renewed sense of purpose

The Globe’s editorial criticizing the Massachusetts Teachers Association for seeking full funding of the Student Opportunity Act and opposing the MCAS regime fails to recognize the magnitude of the coronavirus crisis for public education (”The Massachusetts Teachers Association tries to exploit a crisis,” June 28).

School leaders and state officials have joined us in saying that schools need more funding in a pandemic, not less. We need staff to enable social distancing, provide support for remote learning, address student trauma, and meet health and safety protocols.

On MCAS, the MTA has long argued that these tests narrow the curriculum and wrongly label students and schools as “failing,” when in fact our Commonwealth has failed them through disinvestment. Pandemic-driven disruptions are exacerbating these problems. To replace MCAS, we are seeking more authentic measures of student, school, and district performance that promote creativity and a love of learning.

We are at a crossroad. Rather than trying to replicate the past, communities must now come together — virtually — to revisit the purpose of education and how schools can best prepare students to be citizens in a democracy. Transformation is not possible without funding to provide historically marginalized students of color and those from low-income families with a curriculum that affirms their identities. MCAS obstructs this mission.


Merrie Najimy


Massachusetts Teachers Association


There’s time to address MCAS — focus now on kids’ pressing needs and safe return

As a proud member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and supporter of unions and public education, I am sorry to say that I cannot support our current leadership’s ultimatums. I am one of thousands of educators who, along with my students and their parents, are doing everything possible to make the best of education through the pandemic.


Unfortunately, the MTA leadership does not believe in communicating or collaborating with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, school superintendents, or any other stakeholders; rather, the union simply makes demands. It has been my experience that people do not respond positively to threats, overt or implied. In addition, MTA leadership has not effectively followed MTA procedures for seeking input, consensus, and a vote from the rank-and-file educators they purport to speak for in announcing their directives.

We need to prioritize getting our schools open safely and putting educators and students back in the classroom. Too many of our students are at risk of learning loss, food insecurity, and emotional and physical abuse. There is plenty of time to address MCAS and all the other issues ahead of us. Reopening schools is the first step, but it is one we need to take in September.

Ruth Allen


Rosy picture of MCAS doesn’t match his view of testing in Mass.

The editorial board’s excoriation of the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s demand to end the MCAS paints a rosy picture of testing in Massachusetts. As an educator who works with school districts across the Commonwealth, I cringed at a number of issues with this piece.

You report that MCAS tests “are also given in some lower grades.” In fact, one or more MCAS tests are given every year, from third through eighth grade, and again in 10th grade. That’s seven years of testing.

You claim that passing the MCAS “is not a particularly hard bar to clear.” For many English-language learners, taking MCAS only in English is crushing.


You laud that about 75 percent of Black and Latinx students pass MCAS on the first try, but do not decry the roughly 25 percent who do not. The consequences of MCAS failure are test prep classes instead of serious academic work.

You argue that MCAS should be reviewed for racial bias on individual items, but do not address MTA president Merrie Najimy’s claim that race and socioeconomic status predict performance.

Ibram X. Kendi, in “How to Be an Antiracist,” argues that the “use of standardized tests to measure aptitude and intelligence is one of the most effective racist policies ever devised.” I believe that this is the MTA’s central concern, and your editorial scoffs at that.

Patrick Proctor


The writer is a professor in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College.

It’s a crisis, all right — one that will be far-reaching in schools

Your editorial shows how little the media understand school life.

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is with us for the foreseeable future. Having lost more than a quarter of a school year to the lockdown, our students will return with complex learning issues that are yet to reveal themselves. They have lost their relationships with last year’s teachers. They have lost essential time with friends. They have endured the anxiety and fear of their families and have faced an uncertain future. Many have lost family or friends to the virus.


While the editorial focuses on the 10th-grade test and its relatively low bar, the truth is that MCAS preparation affects students at all levels.

We don’t know how long our children will take to process the changes that come with the virus. We don’t know how long it will take for every school district to find the funding for quality online education in the event of future lockdowns. This country is always willing to cut education funding in response to a crisis. It is also, as usual, ready to demand that teachers step up and do more with even less.

If every crisis is an opportunity, now is the time for us to drop this onerous standardized test and find a meaningful way to address the educational needs of our children.

Karen Shiebler


The writer is a retired teacher.

Standardized test hasn’t delivered on its promise

Re “The Massachusetts Teachers Association tries to exploit a crisis”: The Globe could well be accused of exploitation for using this opportunity to display, yet again, its longstanding prejudice against the MTA.

The MCAS has not brought about the improvement in education that it promised. MCAS scores are so closely correlated to socioeconomic status that relying on them as measures of accountability for struggling schools is not effective. In the meantime, well-heeled suburban schools use MCAS scores to compete with their neighbors. All this is an enormous cost in terms of funding and classroom time and focus.


The MTA is reflecting the experience and needs of teachers who see firsthand the toll on their students of high-stakes testing and inequitable funding. Their advocacy points the way to address the privileged systems of schooling and funding.

Deborah Peterson


The writer is a member of the MTA and a retired seventh-grade teacher.