Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MTA + $$ = The End of MCAS

We all knew the days of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test were numbered when Governor Patrick decided to name Paul Reville – a strident opponent of the MCAS – to the Board of Education. It was really just a question of when the Governor would finally drop the charade and go back on his oft-repeated assertion that “we’re not walking away from the MCAS.”

Last Friday, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester made it official when he released a memo recommending that Massachusetts adopt the proposed national Common Core standards. Tomorrow, the Board of Education is scheduled to vote on his recommendation (be sure to check out today’s Boston Herald editorial, “Slipping Standards”).

If this vote had taken place prior to Governor Patrick’s education reorganization, we would have expected the board to engage in a spirited debate, while holding the Patrick-Murray Administration’s feet to the fire and forcing them to defend the rationale of abandoning a test that is recognized as the best in the nation. But that was back when the board still clung to its long and proud history of independence; the reorganization has left the board a shell of its former shelf, and there’s little doubt how the vote will go.

So what proved to be the tipping point for the Patrick-Murray Administration?

For starters, the federal government dangled the prospect of the state qualifying for up to $250 million in one-time federal aid if it adopts the national standards by August 2. That money would come in handy, but is it really worth dumbing down our highest-in-the-nation academic standards to get it? We don’t think so.

Then, of course, there is the influence of the state’s teachers’ unions, which have long opposed the MCAS. Patrick is clearly beholden to the unions. In fact, the Massachusetts Teachers Association pumped nearly $2.6 million into his 2006 campaign for Governor, and endorsed his re-election just days before Commissioner Chester released his memo.

A quid pro quo? You be the judge.