• Ariel Tichnor-Wagner

    Ariel Tichnor-Wagner Profile

Comments & Discussion

Boston University moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (EST) and can only accept comments written in English. Statistics or facts must include a citation or a link to the citation.

There are 5 comments on POV: It’s Time to Reimagine School Accountability beyond Standardized Tests

  1. I was from 1970 to 1991 (when I was appointed full professor at Boston University) the MA state official responsible for educational equity: race, sex, national origin, and administered over $200 million in state funds to improve schools in 18 MA cities.

    Until adoption of MCAS, it was extremely difficult for us to assess to what extent urban schools had high expectations for their students and effective ways to support academic achievement. MCAS made it possible for us to hold educators accountable for results, and thus gave a powerful boost to educational equity.

    It’s not surprising that many teachers, school administrators, and those who train them resist objective standards for educational results. It is much less threatening for them to substitute vague feel-good goals for which there is no way to be held accountable.

    This is of course by no means to dismiss the importance of educational goals that are not readily measurable, those addressing character, resilience, compassion, and so forth. Any good school makes these a priority. But it should not invoke them as an excuse to neglect measurable academic achievement. That would be unjust and neglectful of the interests of at-risk students.

  2. First of all, your point on the MCAS achievement gap suggesting “tests focused on a single, white-centric standard of achievement are not appropriate measures for an education system that serves diverse students” is quite interesting to see because for such a standard test, it really should, at least, aim for equity among different groups in MA. Hence, in the context of your arguing, they should work more on setting the “standard”.

    Yet, I think this might be hard to do based on problems of gentrification of districts – according to a research back in 2001 (see the link below if you need to see the research, accessed from the source of Wikipedia page about MCAS), 84% of the variation of scores across school can be explained by socioeconomic factors/demographic. This means that if we want the “standard” to be set as more “standardly,” we need to address demographic problems as well, which I assume will involve lots of social reform, and they will take years.

    Last but not least, I do not think it is MCAS’s sole problem for failing to provide excellent education. Yes, I kind of agree it is causing the problems that you are talking about, and, it is a test, which kinds of saying that what a school teaches depends on that. However, it is just a “depend,” and it seems to me that schools themselves are responsible for their own curriculum settings right? It does not seem contradictory to me to have courses planned for MCAS while also having courses that provides students with knowledge and practices to let them be able to give creative, multifaceted, collaborative solutions.


  3. I would like to say that your article was very interesting to read, and I thought you brought up a lot of good points as to why the MCAS fails to support students and fails to cultivate some sort of diversity in knowledge.

    The one point I wanted to highlight that you mentioned was that the MCAS fails to “deliver on providing an excellent education.” I thought this was a great point that was made, and I liked how you also brought up the point the MCAS and other high-stakes exams push schools to focus on isolated subject areas, because that is true. I can speak to that personally as I have been a student in Massachusetts my whole life, and I have taken the MCAS from fourth grade until tenth grade. For the majority of my schooling, there were always designated time to help us prepare for the MCAS, and I always felt that they were a waste of time because I felt that we could be learning about other more interesting subjects. I also, personally, feel that the MCAS did not help me improve as a student. When preparing for the MCAS, it always seemed that I was preparing to pass the test and not gain any further understanding. For example, I scored “needs improvement” on my Fourth grade MCAS score for English language arts, and so the school required me to go to a program that occurred before school started, which was around 7:30 in the morning, just to do practice MCAS passages. This additional schooling did not help me as a student because it did not help me critically think about passages. It caused me to understand what was required on the test, and understand how to pass the test, but that was essentially it.

    So, thank you for pointing that point out because it is such an important thing to highlight when dealing with the MCAS, because it seems that schools care more about the MCAS than the actual students.

  4. I found the article very interesting. You present several great points that strengthen your argument for why MCAS is not beneficial and fails to support students.
    You brought up a great point about tests that focused on how “white-centric standards of achievement are not an appropriate measure for an education system that serves diverse students. ” I truly agree with this argument. It is quite ironic that a standardized test that is supposed to create a leveling field instead does the opposite.

    When I was in fifth grade I moved to the states. Since then, I have taken several states test. I remember both in Maryland and Texas, all my classes would emphasize the State exam. It almost felt like we were just preparing for an exam instead of learning the information. I understand these exams are important because they are suppose to be the easiest way to measure success. However, it does not measure effort, diversity, and students’ potential.

  5. I thought this was a very interesting article that raised a lot of good points. Like several other commenters I have been through public education and have firsthand experience with this type of standardized testing, though I attended school in Washington state. My most prominent memory of these tests (which started in elementary school) was the academic stress they placed on me and my peers. While some degree of stress is inevitable in school, I think standardized testing leads many children to conflate their self-worth with academic success, and a very narrow definition of academic success at that. Many kids, from a young age, felt that they were “dumb” becuase they did not preform well on these tests and they resigned themselves to this definition because no one offered them an alternative. Given that these tests are biased against students of marginalized groups, I can only imagine that the stress they feel is even greater. Students should not have to feel ashamed of their academic performance, that is counterproductive to the mission of helping them learn and fostering a desire to do so. Like you pointed out, we are living in a very tumultuous time, which only compounds the anxiety that students are facing; they should not have to deal with an education system that is not geared towards their best interest.

    I also think that the point that standardized tests push schools to “focus on isolated subject areas” is very important. I think schools should be striving to provide a diverse education as this leads their students to be more well-rounded. The focus on specific subject areas also can be alienating for students who do not naturally excel in those areas. If less importance was placed on just a few subjects, students would have the room to learn what interests them and to work at the things they find more challenging.

    I agree that it is time we find a more creative solution, one that accounts for the needs of a diverse student body and recognizes a broader range of abilities so that students are able to grow in school.

Post a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *