As a 4th grader and coming from a family where English is a second language, taking a standardized test in English was already enough to send me into panic mode. Then there was that weird little pie chart to show you how much you sucked and that you were in the “not proficient” category of math or English. Every two years we’d drop everything for testing boot camps. I felt robbed of time I could be spending learning instead of testing or getting ready to take the test. But how else could my teachers measure whether I knew about the earth being round and what year Columbus discovered America?
I felt the pain and my teachers did too. They had to drill us with information that, looking back now, didn’t really matter. When I think back about my REAL education my memories are of learning about a butterfly life cycle by watching butterflies in a classroom or of the science field trips we took to the Arnold Arboretum. You can’t test what I learned about squirrels or the different varieties of wildlife that live in Mass. I am sure once the MCAS creators read this they will try but it will be a weirdly worded question that most youngsters won’t relate too.
I survived the MCAS until junior year when I transferred schools and was told that I’d failed part of the test. This time the stakes were even higher. Passing the test meant the difference between graduating from high school or taking the test until I passed (which might have been never). I should have been worrying about the SAT’s. So I drilled and studied as much as humanly possible until the big day came. I showed up to the MCAS testing center that day only to find out that my name wasn’t on the list of fools taking the test. I went back to my guidance counselor to discover I had passed after all. I breathed a huge sigh of relief—after I finished flipping out. I never wanted to see a #2 pencil, an eraser or a test booklet again.