For many Massachusetts families, MCAS has become a dreaded burden that evokes unnecessary fear and anxiety in young children. Julie Murphy, whose children formerly attended school in the Lincoln Public School district, shares a parent’s perspective in the following interview.
RP: How did your children feel about the MCAS?
JM: They dreaded it and felt pressured to do well.
RP: Do you think the MCAS is an effective way to assess students?
JM: NO! In my experience, the testing seemed to contradict my children’s ability to get A’s and B’s in class. Both of my children always did well in school, yet got lower scores on the MCAS. I don’t know if it was anxiety or just the difference between what was absorbed in class and what was actually on the test. It’s difficult to tell a child his or her MCAS scores are below proficient or even just proficient when he or she has maintained high grades in school.
RP: How did teachers prepare your children?
JM: The only reason I know is from working as an assistant in third grade, where I saw the teacher use a practice booklet to show students how to answer the questions.
RP: Were parents educated on how to help their children at home?
JM: We were told to make sure our children get enough sleep and eat breakfast. Study guides would’ve been helpful if I’d had access to them.
RP: How did the school keep you informed?
JM: After the tests were complete, we heard nothing until the results came. The results were difficult to read and understand. Many statistics were based on percentages, which seemed low, yet the overall score said proficient. I really had to analyze the percents and groupings to understand how my kids got their scores.
RP: How is the school using MCAS data to inform instruction?
JM: I have no clue.
RP: How do you think MCAS affected your children’s school experience?
JM: They shared anxiety about taking the test, but I don’t think they were affected after tests were complete.
RP: How do you think the MCAS affected school morale?
JM: While working there, I noticed a lot of tension during MCAS time. The test seems to grade the school more than the students, and it pained me to see the kids and teachers under so much pressure. Teachers seemed forced to teach just for MCAS results, and in the end that can have a horrible effect on a student’s education.