The story has a beginning, middle, and end, a modest departure from the straight news story form that utilizes the inverted pyramid.
Beginning: The main news. A sad personal student story of failure. A response from the state education commissioner.
Middle: Now comes the political pivot of the story. We are told “The new science requirement comes seven years after the state mandated that all high school students must pass MCAS exams in English and math in order to receive a diploma. That requirement led to some high-profile revolts, including at least one lawsuit and threats from a handful of school committees that they would ignore the state edict. But such controversy has largely been absent this time around, which many educators and advocates take as a sign that schools have come to accept the tests. Still, some groups want to be sure that schools and the state have a plan to help 12th-graders who still have not passed the exam by the end of the school year.” [Italicizing mine].
Who are these “many educators and advocates [who] take as a sign” that the exam has now been accepted? How many? And if it’s been accepted, is it because educators’ now appreciate the value of the exam for their students? Or does the acceptance reflect state coercion and the suppression of teachers’ views in the media, along with an accompanying sense of resignation?
Ending: We get a quote here from a representative of the Boston Private Industry Council telling us that we can’t give up on the kids and that, “We need to let them know we’ll stay with them no matter what.” We are told that the MCAS dropout rate has fallen dramatically because of tutoring programs (Tutoring or the increased emphasis on the test prep that dominates class time?) We are informed that 72% of those who fail MCAS are special education students or “are learning to speak English.” Then the story wraps up with the story of how one Boston school gave its seniors 40 extra hours of tutoring in a successful effort to push them over the MCAS Science hump. Moral of the story: it can be done.
I was hoping that somewhere in this article there would appear the view that tests such as the Science MCAS-quite apart from curricular impact-are not good enough, nor were they designed, to make high-stakes decision about students and schools.
Just why this is the case might have become apparent to Globe readers with a quote or two from education scholar Diane Ravitch whose two recent speaking engagements in Boston, at the BTU and at Harvard, have been blacked-out in the Globe’s news columns.
According to the Globe search engine, ditto for news coverage of Stamford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond’s recent three-day speaking engagement in the Boston area. Hammond, who was on Obama’s short list for the Secretary of Education post, shares many of Ravitch’s views. These are important scholars.
Can it be that the failure by the region’s largest newspaper to adequately cover such views helps to explain the lack of controversy, which, we are then told, “many educators and advocates take as a sign that schools have come to accept the tests”?
Science…hypothesis…observation…cause…effect. Identification and control of variables. Perhaps the time for some genuine experimentation has arrived in our city’s newsrooms.