The MCAS-PARCC debate has ended in Massachusetts — for now. The debate over tests in general is far from over, however.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, following the recommendation of state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, voted Tuesday to adopt a version of MCAS that will include elements of PARCC, its proposed replacement. No one knows how this will work, and the claim in The Boston Globe by Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni that "They're just hiding PARCC inside MCAS" indicates that politics will continue to dominate this nominally educational decision.
MCAS has clearly fallen short in preparing students for college. PARCC may lessen state control while not helping students do any better. In the latter stages of the debate, the Obama White House made the welcome acknowledgment that schools are too reliant upon standardized tests — something that won't change, however, as long as the federal government insists that states must choose a single standardized test by 2017, the deadline for development of the new Massachusetts hybrid exam.
The bottom line, as Pittsfield Schools Superintendent Jason McCandless said in Wednesday's Eagle, is that "all the testing in the world" won't matter unless schools address issues like poverty and learning deficiencies facing students. When it comes to tackling these fundamental issues, the state is failing the test.