Boston Protests MCAS Exam

K-12 Testing

Calling upon elected officials to stand up for Boston students about to be denied a diploma this June, more than 200 residents packed into a mid-March City Council hearing to demand a delay or an end to the MCAS graduation requirement.


“You’re pushing out the very students that education reform was supposed to support,” said Samantha Wright, a senior at Dorchester High School. “You are telling me that because I failed this one test, I can’t fulfill my dreams...”


Madison Park High School teacher Judith Baker charged, “We rode the desegregation bus and then a hijacker got on the bus and is driving it in the opposite direction… Everything that has stood for reform and improvement in our schools has been subjugated to a single test…At my school, there are no high-level courses anymore. MCAS remedial classes have taken over.”


While the City Council eventually passed the resolution 11-1, the mayor-appointed School Committee has refused to act on it. The hearing, called by City Councilor Chuck Turner, chair of the Education Committee, was significant because it united a wide array of groups and demonstrated that opposition to the MCAS has been growing in Boston as the discriminatory effects of the test become more apparent.


The resolution called for a postponement of the MCAS graduation requirement until “there is no significant disparity between the outcomes of students in Massachusetts’ poorer and wealthier communities and no significant disparity in the outcomes of students of color and white students on the MCAS test.” Several Boston groups including Boston CARE, Mass. Advocates for Children, Boston Parents Organizing Network, Black Ministerial Alliance, Project HIP-HOP, and others helped the offices of Councilors Turner, Felix Arroyo, and Charles Yancey organize the event.


As the hearing wore on, the testimony became more heated and more directly addressed to Boston Superintendent Thomas Payzant, who was sitting in the front row. Speaker after speaker rose to denounce the harmful effects of the high-stakes MCAS exam on their children and on the public schools. In a repeated chant, Boston Latin School teacher Steve Fernandez asked the community, “Whose schools are these?” and they responded “Our schools!!” He blasted Payzant and other school officials for having lower expectations for Black and Hispanic students than they do for white students. He asked why Payzant had abandoned his position, written in 1996, which said that multiple measures of assessment were the legitimate way to determine student progress, not a single paper-and-pencil test. At that point, the superintendent left the room.


• For more information on the hearing and the fight against MCAS see