Test, and Test Again

K-12 Testing

In a classic example of testing overkill, less than a week after the first MCAS student test results were released, the Massachusetts Department of Education asked the legislature for $700,000 to administer yet another reading test, this one for second graders. Because of low 4th grade English language arts scores, state officials say the proposed test is needed to catch reading deficiencies so that help can be provided before students reach the 4th grade - and the MCAS test.


FairTest and other educators have opposed the proposal as a waste of resources that will only result in redundant and inaccurate information. They point to research showing that young children are very erratic test takers, and the unlikelihood of receiving valid or useful information from a standardized reading test at grade two. Reading assessments conducted by teachers in the classroom are more useful for helping students who need it.


On the 1994 National Assessment of Education Progress, Massachusetts students tied for second in the nation in reading at grade 4; on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills at grade 3, students did better than 67 percent of test takers. Further, the U.S. tied for second at grade 3 on the most recent international reading test. These results call into question the validity of the low scores on the MCAS. State education officials and some educators have said that some of the 4th grade reading passages were more appropriate for students in the 5th, 6th or higher grades.