As state delays MCAS, Andover wants tests canceled

Madeline Hughes, Andover Townsman, Mass.
·2 min read

Mar. 11—The state is delaying MCAS tests this year for elementary and middle-school students, but Andover says the delay is not good enough.

The town's school officials and teachers want the tests canceled because of disruption to learning caused by the pandemic.

Jeff Riley, state commissioner of elementary and secondary education, announced the MCAS delay Friday. The announcement comes as Andover's School Committee and teachers union call on the state to cancel the tests. More than 20 other Massachusetts school districts have made similar requests.

"We call for a moratorium on MCAS testing for the 2020-2021 school year so all students can benefit from their time being focused on direct instruction," the School Committee wrote in a resolution passed unanimously last week.

MCAS tests are on the horizon as students return to classrooms more hours each week in some districts, while other districts make plans to increase in-person learning. The state has postponed MCAS for grades three to eight until May, but Andover school officials say the tests should be canceled because the pandemic has been deeply disruptive to learning.

"The social-emotional trauma both individually and collectively has yet to be truly realized in the students who have experienced the shutdown of their local school buildings and separations from their peers and supportive adults," the School Committee wrote in its resolution against MCAS.

The committee's statement came a week after teachers asked committee members to pressure the state against having the tests, and also after Andover teachers union president Matthew Bach said the union would also send a letter to the state.

"The MCAS test, as I think we can all agree, is socially and emotionally destructive to students, especially in a year where direct instruction is so needed and desired for our students and recognized by our educators," Bach said.

He was supported by Elizabeth Wright, a math teacher at Doherty Middle School who said the MCAS would be especially cumbersome for students with disabilities and language barriers who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic keeping them out of classrooms.

"Since Massachusetts began administering the MCAS, the educational gaps between wealthy, dominant-culture students and those outside of the dominant culture have not closed," Wright said. "Rather, in the case of English language learners, they have widened. In places of privilege, such as private schools, children are exempt from the MCAS. It is my view that this year especially that we should grant the children of Andover Public Schools that same exemption."

Standardized tests are federally mandated, but the U.S. Department of Education said it is allowing states to request a waiver from this year's tests because it wants to put all efforts toward getting children into classrooms.