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LETTERS

MCAS this year? OK, question 1: Why . . . just, why?

Fifth-grade students stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at Mary L. Fonseca Elementary School in Fall River on Nov. 23, 2020.
Fifth-grade students stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at Mary L. Fonseca Elementary School in Fall River on Nov. 23, 2020.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

We don’t need an assessment to see what schools, students are missing

Re “Massachusetts needs to test students to diagnose COVID-19 learning slide” (Editorial, Feb. 17): Once again, the Globe aligns with the commissioner of education in the mandating of testing as a way to advance education. I have a few test questions of my own:

Might the education community already be aware that the pandemic has exacerbated existing socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps? Do schools need tests to “diagnose any learning deficits” and decide how to use federal money? The editorial says, “Perhaps the results will only reinforce the obvious.” Anyone with the common sense of a middle school student would conclude that.

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Are resources needed to improve school buildings, develop or maintain additional programs, improve skills, or introduce innovations? Should federal financing be used for “summer programming, accelerated academies, intensive tutoring,” as the head of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education suggests? Without any tests, the answer is yes to all of the above and more.

Will adding a layer of bureaucratic assessment and using valuable money to pay testing companies be helpful? This plan to administer a modified MCAS this year undermines the skill and dedication of superintendents, principals, and teachers.

Does the Globe’s management evaluate the newspaper or the value of reporters and columnists by giving them a test at the end of the year or, rather, does leadership judge the work based on knowledge and experience?

It would be punishment to inflict unnecessary stress on students (who are always stressed by these tests). Teachers and students should be thanked for doing their best in an unprecedentedly difficult year and asked what they need going forward.

Dori Kalthofer

Cambridge


With what’s left of this year, students need learning time

As a Chelsea School Committee member, I’m baffled by the continued push for MCAS this year. Standardized testing will not allow us to measure “learning loss.” The best use for test scores is to make comparisons between points in time. However, we cannot compare pre- and post-COVID-19 scores.

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A student would probably underperform if tested the day their grandmother died, but their challenge would be attributable to their emotional state, not their cognitive abilities. COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates for Black and Latinx people are two to three times that of whites, meaning that Black and Latinx students have been disproportionately experiencing pandemic loss and trauma. Administering MCAS would measure that grief and mistakenly call it “learning loss.”

We have limited learning time left this year, so students should spend it learning. Schools spend too much time prepping for and administering MCAS. Let’s focus instead on more math, more civics, more art, etc.

Educators are with students constantly and can provide answers to what causes testing gaps and how to close them — a far more important piece than how much they lost this year. With more testing, we’re just targeting communities of color to tell them they’ve had it rough. Our community already knows that.

Roberto Jiménez Rivera

Chelsea


Why jump-start a strategy that’s already failing?

Countless educators, parents, students, and educational specialists say that testing should be suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, but the Globe disagrees. It says that all children must be tested to find out who has lost the most “learning.” This is “learning” as measured by standardized tests, which leaves out most of what students learn in and out of school.

The editorial says, “Perhaps the results will only reinforce the obvious: that the pandemic exacerbated existing socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps. Nonetheless, one can’t manage what one can’t measure correctly.”

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But a school improvement strategy that has failed for more than 20 years will not suddenly start working during an unprecedented emergency.

The Globe recites the data it’s so eager to get: learning loss in Dallas and in Washington, D.C., and a national study that found Black and brown students were set back more than whites. Do we seriously think the results will be different here than in the rest of the country? If so, then sampling would provide the answer with, say, 1,000 students randomly chosen, without adding to students’ trauma and wasting time when teachers and students should be focused on educational and social-emotional recovery.

Lisa Guisbond

Executive director

Citizens for Public Schools

Boston