My Turn: Common sense to postpone MCAS this year

Published: 12/13/2020 2:26:50 PM

Thank you, Chip Wood, for your My Turn piece titled “MCAS 2021 — Really?” that ran on Dec. 10. Mr. Wood laid out many reasons for placing a moratorium on mandated testing of students in Massachusetts for this school year.

There is a consensus in the educational community and, I would posit, the larger community as a whole, that the hodgepodge approach to teaching this year, from fully remote, to hybrid, to fully in-school — with its myriad restrictions — does not remotely constitute a “regular” year for students. It leaves one to wonder about the necessity of testing.

Mr. Wood supports his position with evidence, such as the U.S. Department of Education having already canceled its standardized testing this year, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees taking the stance that MCAS should be canceled this year, and the extra cost to hold such tests in this online educational environment.

As a sixth-grade teacher, I would add further justification for canceling MCAS in 2021 by attesting to the burden students face each day, from continuous technological lapses that wreak havoc on lessons, to less opportunity for individual help, to the bizarre in-person working environments for them, and on and on.

Educators and students are just trying to make it through each day. Adding MCAS to the mix further stresses an already stressed population and educational platform.

I agree with Mr. Wood completely, and just last month reached out to all the members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about this issue, sharing the identical questions he has. To each of them, I concluded with, “I leave you with the following question: do we really need to be worried about state standardized testing in the middle of a worldwide pandemic? I mean, really?”

This board consists of community leaders, college administrators and professors, labor and community development leaders, the Secretary of Education, the Commissioner of Education (Tell me the difference between these two positions?!), and parent and student representatives.

How many do you think responded to me? One. Jasper Coughlin, the high school student representative to the board gave the sole reply. He did so thoughtfully and thoroughly, and he shared my concerns. I applaud this young man for showing the courtesy of responding to me and for his stance.

Having read Mr. Wood’s well-supported reasoning, as well as the experiences I’ve shared, I encourage you to reach out to the rest of these board members and tell them you’d like to see MCAS canceled this year. You can find their contact information at

People often wonder why government bureaucracies can’t get out of our own way and make common sense decisions. It sure seems like each of these board members, with their highly credentialed resumes, could learn some of that common sense from their teenage colleague by coming to the right decision and postpone MCAS this year.

Mark Burnett is a resident of Erving.


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