Massachusetts takes considerable pride in the success its public schools have had since the state put in place uniform standards and the MCAS testing regime in 1993. Bay State students have consistently led the nation in academic achievement — though not the world — in the years since.
But good teachers don’t use the same lesson plans year after year, and good students don’t slack off because they made honor roll last semester. The MCAS system is over 20 years old, and it was far from perfect to begin with. Consider that the 10th grade MCAS tests, the original “high stakes” tests required for graduation, were designed to determine if the student was capable of doing 10th grade work — not whether he or she was prepared to succeed in college or the workplace.
The national Common Core standards, and the PARCC (Partnership for Readiness for College and Careers) tests developed to go with the standards, are designed to address several shortcomings. They assess skills, not just memorized facts, making it more difficult to cram and to cheat. They require students explain how they got their answers, moving the assessment beyond “multiple guess” questions.