Friday, May 21, 2010
The announcement that Massachusetts wants to stop using the MCAS and move to a regionalized testing system, is prompting all the wrong arguments. Supporters of the current MCAS testing system argue that this is being done to support Unions and others who have long fought the testing system. Teachers argue this is going to create another level of issues in standardizing curriculum and teaching programs to match the demands of a new testing program.
The issue that lies behind this is a move by the federal government to gain control of local education by offering states bribes to do it the federal government’s way. Massachusetts currently sets the goals and curriculum standards for MCAS. Like it or hate it the standards are locally controlled. When we move to regionalize those standards to reach testing criteria acceptable to a regional system, we are now controlled, not at a state level, but by a regional board. By accepting a federal bribe, we have ceded more local control of education to the federal government. Once surrendered, this control will not be easily regained.
Those who like or hate MCAS should not support regionalization of our state education system. There are always ways to reform education locally and those discussions must be active locally. Once we cede control of our system in return for federal dollars, we sacrifice that option and all our freedoms that we value in local control of education.
Be clear, changing MCAS is not about testing, it is about state control of public education. Retaining that right is important. Those who wish to reform or abolish MCAS can definitely continue those discussions within the confines of state control. However, ceding control to a federal authority will only achieve minor financial gains. The misguided attempt to score wins against political opponents in current debates about this issue will have long lasting educational consequences. Massachusetts must retain local state control of education. Reforming, changing, or maintaining MCAS is an issue that must be resolved within our state borders and without federal interference. Once we retain the ability for Massachusetts to control its educational system, the political arguments over the benefits or dangers of MCAS or another system can continue unabated. While the federal government is attempting to take control of our system, we must put these arguments aside and both sides must agree that Massachusetts should control the state education system, not the federal government. All other arguments can wait for another day. No matter how tempting we must walk away from federal bribes to surrender our educational freedom. Once our state’s educational rights are secure, we can continue debating the merits of testing.
Picture Credit: http://morguefile.com/archive/display/115991