Should these students be allowed to graduate?

(This is a continuation of my “low expecations” thread.)

Students in Massachusetts are now required to pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test in order to graduate. A substantial percentage of minority students have not passed the test. Some people are urging that they graduate anyhow.

Others support the continued use of the MCAS.

The MCAS is supposed to create pressure for higher achievement, and it seems to be working.

I oppose ending or amending the MCAS requirement. It’s forcing Boston schools to se that their students actually learn the material. What’s the value of a dipploma without the learning?

I can understand why the Boston Superintendent might want an adjustment. It would make his job easier. He and his people wouldn’t have to work as hard to educate every student.

I’m disappointed in the local NAACP head. I don’t think ending the MCAS program serves the best interests of his membership.

Gosh I really hate to do this, but the inner a hole in me must, “What’s the value of a dipploma without the learning?”.

A prize goes to the first person who points out what’s wrong here.

I have an intellect, but I lack the ual.

Nope. Fail the little class-cutting bastards. These achievement tests are not the sort of thing that are even difficult to pass, much less hard to pass.

I had to take the TX version. If you can read English and add on your fingers (ok, maybe multiply too) then you can pass these things.

Go to class you lazy slackers!

–==the sax man==–

Its painful, but I have no choice but to remand them back a year.

I had to take the Texas version too. And further, I agree that you shouldn’t graduate high school if you can’t pass the test.

What disturbs me, though, is the pressure that puts on administrators. Principals must get their TAAS pass rates up or lose respect/their jobs, which has led to a couple of big cheating scandals. I also think that focus on the test as the measure of academic performance has severely damaged education in Texas in some ways – in some of my classes I had to spend up to six weeks out of the year studying the test itself and learning “strategies” and such rather than studying, you know, the material. (I studied on my own time, thank you.) So I think these tests are useful, but abused.

I have to say that Leonard Alkins made a statement that, in my opinion, gets to the heart of the matter: the fact that the school system is promoting/passing kids on to the next grade level when they clearly haven’t learned anything.

It seems to me that a school system that refuses to issue a dipolma to the same kids that it has allowed to pass on to the next grade year-after-year is hypocritical. The MCAS is just an indicator of a failed system. The kids lose all the way around.

Well, the longer I’m out of HS, the more I realize what a joke it was. What a joke the entire Public Education system is. If they can’t pass the test, it’s the result of 13 years of shoddy education, overcrowded classes, teachers who were too busy/overworked to care about a few below-average minority students, and when they do have the time, passing out misinformation, lies, and urban legends. Why keep them there? So they can “learn” more? An additional year isn’t going to make one lick of difference, especially if they didn’t care about the past 13.
It’s mandatory for children to go to school…and hopefully they’ll learn something. But if not? Well, holding them back doesn’t work, and it won’t start now. It’s a complicated situation, involving the children, the parents, the teachers, the entire education system, and society as a whole. There are enough problems at the system needs an entire overhaul…until that happens, it doesn’t matter how many years you hold a student back or hold back the diploma, it won’t make a difference.

I’m not suggesting “holding them back” as much as I’m illustrating that they aren’t learning anything. To issue a comprehensive Final Exam at the end of the senior year of high school to determine if the student is qualified to graduate is too little too late.

Why not issue a Final Exam at the end of each school year for ALL grades to determine if which students are qualified to advance to the next level? Again, this isn’t the same as endorsing hold-backs. Why? Because I believe after the first year of such testing reveals that a high percentage of the students haven’t learned/been taught the information they need to advance we’ll see a grassroots upsurge of anger and frustration from parents and students. And THAT is what it’s going to take to fix our broken public education system.

So, because the schools are failing the students, we should punish the students?


I don’t agree that the schools are failing the students. If schools were failing the students wouldn’t the failure be pretty generally spread across racial lines? The schools IMHO are only part of the problem. The individual students attitude, work ethic, socio-economic background and familial support are all large factors in determing a studens academic success.

The real questions are “What is the job of the schools?” and “Are they meeting those job requirements satisfactorily?”


If these sorts of problems are to be addressed, they need to be addressed at a far younger age. There’s also the problem of retroactivity; why is it that those who graduated before this test was instituted can get by and those who try to graduate after get screwed? The only truly fair way to do this would be to test everybody, or scrap the graduation element and start actually pulling kids back when it matters.

It’s just like rent control: it merely protects those who were early to the party.

Of course, they might simply leave school. Which benefits no-one, least of all them. Pity that most teenagers can’t recognize that, but that’s why adult education was invented, and remains a good idea.

“It seems to me that a school system that refuses to issue a dipolma to the same kids that it has allowed to pass on to the next grade year-after-year is hypocritical.”
Word, Sphinx.
How exactly would the schools handle these non-graduates, along with the new grade 12 students? More kids to a class? I can’t really see that working to anybody’s advantage. As much as I’d like to equate “high school graduate” with “able to read and do simple addition”, I say push this batch of kids through or I guarantee less than half will stay in school to get that diploma.

Interesting point. SMUsax wrote

Assuming that this description applies to the MCAS, we’re talking about 5,000 or so students per year, who will leave high school unable to read adequately or unable to do basic arithmetic. In addition, they may suffer from whatever racism exists in their community. This is a truly horrible situation. Any action is likely to be inadequate in the short run.

ISTM that letting them graduate isn’t much of a reward. A high school diploma might or might not help someone get a first job. That’s about it. The entire remainder of their careers will be hampered by the reality of their reading and math skill levels, as will their personal lives.

If they’re held back and given intensive coaching, it’s conceivable that a substantial number might learn these vital, basic skills. However, I really don’t know what the prospects are for educational success at this point in their lives.

In the longer run, I fully agree with Sphinx

Maintaining the MCAS may lead to ending social promotion, which may lead to the upsurge of anger. which may lead to more effective education. However, if Boston relaxes the MCAS requriement, the remaining steps might never occur.

It would be nice to think so, wouldn’t it?

I spent most of my high school years in an alternative program, but my freshman year and half-days my junior year at my neighborhood mainstream high school. A very typical all-American kind of school, and in a very high-performing district often criticized for being excessively liberal. And you know what? I don’t think I ever had a class there with a black or Hispanic student. Study halls, sure, and maybe gym, but my academic classes were lily white except for the occasional Indian or Chinese child of a university professor.

For whatever reason, the black and Hispanic students at my school (and there were plenty of them) did not end up in the same classes as nice white girls like me. For all intents and purposes we might as well have been at different schools. It is not at all difficult for me to believe that the educational standards were very different in whatever classes these black and Hispanic students found themselves in than they were in my classes.

As for the graduation tests, I agree with Sua:

If a few students fail to pass a graduation test then it may be because they are just bad students. But if 50-60% of members of particular racial and ethnic minorities are not passing the tests, there’s something else going on. Somewhere along the line these kids got screwed, and they’re not going to be any less screwed if they aren’t allowed to graduate. You can’t even qualify for most burger-flipping jobs without a diploma. If the school has let these kids go through the system for 13 yearswithout learning anything, they can’t suddenly expect the kids to prove that they’ve learned something.

I am not against assessment tests in general, but graduation exams of this nature serve no purpose. If the schools really want to improve themselves, they could simply administer assessment exams that would not affect the grades or graduation status of the students – many such exams are already administered to children from elementary school on up. If the school is not up to snuff the students are already suffering, there’s no reason to add to that by punishing them for not passing an exam their school hasn’t sufficiently prepared them for.

Sua, these students have already been punished, by not getting a decent education. Without a decent education behind it, a diploma is nothing more than a piece of paper.

Give them a diploma and they will be unprepared for jobs that require a high school education, and will fail when put in those positions. Pretending that they have a high school education doesn’t really help anyone. At least, if they are denied that diploma, these students may have a reason to go for a GED.

a couple of other possabilities here that haven’t been pointed out.

  1. Tests are timed. If your goal is that ‘all students who graduate can read at x level’ then let that be the goal. a timed test does not necessarily demonstrate that the person cannot read, but merely they’re quite slow at it. I had a client who scored a ‘zero’ on a reading test, (indicating that he was completely illiterate), but when I asked him to read the test aloud to me, he was able to complete the test w/only one mistake. He could read, but not very fast.

  2. Not all kids want to pass the test. You’re assuming that all students were attempting to do their best. I don’t think it’s a valid assumption. (my son actually told me one year that he purposely did poorly on one of the many standardized tests the school handed out 'cause he was mad at some teacher and was told that the tests were ‘important to the school’. he was only 8 at the time of course)

  3. Some people do very poorly under pressure. While I was in high school etc, I did well on standardized tests. At one of the many ‘award’ ceremonies, the speaker addressed all of us saying “well, you all know you test well” to differentiate between that and actually, you know, **know **stuff.

There were school districts in my state that encouraged certain students to ‘stay home’ on standardized testing days.

While I’m not saying there shouldn’t be accountability in schools, I am suggesting that timed, standardized tests are not the only (or even best) method of doing so.

I am horrid at standardized tests. They’re also biased against students with learning disabilities-I’d be very high on the english and reading comprehension areas, but my scores on things like math and science were at the very bottom. Also, I take a long time on tests, and often, I’d end up falling behind and be called “stupid”.

Also, occassionally, I’d get bored and start filling in the little circles at random.

>> Also, occassionally, I’d get bored and start filling in the little circles at random.

Oh, here’s a person i want performing brain surgery on me! Please give her a diploma fast! :wink:

'nother example -

Favorite story around my household was that the kindergarten teacher wanted to hold my baby brother back an additional year in kindergarten, 'cause he ‘failed’ her test for dexterity. She showed my parents a very clumsily cut out of a circle as evidence that his motor skills weren’t up to par.

2 problems :

  1. Baby brother was left handed, and they only had right handed scissors,

  2. Baby brother also was unaware that the ‘intent’ of the exercise was to ‘cut along the lines’.

My parents were especially fond of this example when BB played in the little League World Series some 7 years later.

I am sure there are many interesting points to be made about the philosophy of having and implementing these tests, but what concerns me here is how holding students back to learn material is punishing them.

I know piss-all about Boston city schools, and the MCAS is on the news all the time in some damn form or another. Some news story was about how some teachers couldn’t pass it or something, but if it was anything like the standardized test I took in Ohio then it really was no big deal. Admittedly, that probably doesn’t mean much coming from your average doper, but the point here is that a high school education doesn’t really offer people that much to begin with, and not being able to take a comprehensive test on what you’ve been doing for the last X years could say any number of things.

The striking percentage difference on traditionally poor minorities raises issues of what the students do when they aren’t at school, but since more and more of America is subjected to the latchkey kid phenomenon I am not sure we can really look at economic class as an indicator, here. I’d be interested in checking out labor statistics for this age group, though, to see if there is anything to that idea.

The idea here that the NAACP representative offers is pretty short-sighted. Standardized testing isn’t going to get the weeds out of everyone’s lawn, but I think it is definitely a step in the right direction even if it isn’t suited to each individual child’s need. I think the more important question is how these students came to be in a situation where they could graduate if only they passed this test and then didn’t. I would like to think that tests like these are more or less formalities, with some possible trend indicators built in (tough questions asked but not scored, for example). Eliminating the MCAS isn’t suddenly going to make these kids, and kids like them, brighter, it is just going to hide it from plain sight where it needs to be so we can address it.

Hold them back. Sorry, but the education system shouldn’t be putting kids out there without something resembling an education. And they really need to take some time to find out how something like this happened.

wring, if I may, I’d like to address your three points. The first point seems to me to be a general complaint about test anxiety, but do you honestly feel that having to take, and perform well, on a timed test is something limited only to the high school experience? Operating under time contraints is surely a factor of just about every single job I can conceive of. I don’t have much to say about your second point, but I think that it has no bearing on the question at hand. They need it to graduate, who cares if they want to pass it or not. Who wants to take any (or most) of their high school classes? For the third, and final, point you make I need to reiterate my response to the first point. Operating under pressure is such a real-world fact that I cannot imagine finding this to be a flaw with testing. Of course your points are true, but this doesn’t mean that the tests shouldn’t be there anyway.