People. Progress. Results.

MCAS a flawed ruler to measure education in Somerville

Posted by New Leaders Council 4 Admin on April 21, 2015 at 4:01 PM

Dan Futrell, former NLC Boston Fellow and School Committee Member, Ward 2, on standardized Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, originally published on January 31, 2015 for the Sommerville Journal.

Massachusetts, the #1 ranked state in the country for education, is using a measure of success that’s about as incomplete as trying to measure Tom Brady’s greatness by counting only his rushing yards - they definitely matter, but we would completely miss what makes him great. Amid the current discussion on renewing our standardized assessment system, we have a great opportunity to do it right.

There is a well-known business principle best said by American Express executive John Hayes: "We tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we can not." If the Bay State wants to be a true national leader in education, we would do well to use this as our starting point.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), the standardized test by which all students, schools, and districts are measured, does not measure a child's development of the skills needed for healthy adulthood. By continuing to rely solely on the MCAS yardstick, we will continue undervaluing skills we really care about. In fact, we already see this more comprehensive focus playing out in college admissions offices nationwide who favor a 3.0 GPA student-athlete who volunteers in their community over a 4.0 student with no extracurriculars.

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