Wishing for a Massachusetts miracle?

To receive a high-school diploma in Massachusetts, one must at least pass the MCAS (or make one's way through a reasonably challenging alternative path.) Nonetheless, according to the Boston Globe, "thousands of Massachusetts public high school graduates arrive at college unprepared for even the most basic math and English classes." Such students must therefore take remedial courses and many drop out, all of which, the Globe notes, will "cast doubt on the MCAS exams as a predictor of college readiness." But that's a misleading statement, because the MCAS is actually a fine predictor of college readiness: those who barely pass it are more likely to take remedial courses in college than those who ace it. Some would argue then that the test's passing score should be raised to indicate true readiness for college. Says Paul Schichtman, who coordinates testing for the Lowell schools, "Your high school diploma needs to be a credential for a two- and four-year school, and it's something that we take very seriously." We agree--and that's the spirit behind the American Diploma Project, with which we've been proud to be associated. Yet the Massachusetts board of education, not so long ago, declined to raise the MCAS passing score, and they did so for a reason. How large a fraction of its youthful population can America stand to have walking the streets having been denied their high school diplomas, even after they've attended dutifully, passed their courses, and attained what was previously the "cut score" on the statewide graduation test? Could Charles Murray be a little bit right? Is it naïve to suppose that everybody passing through our k-12 system should emerge ready for college-level work?  Isn't this the same line of thinking that led to NCLB's "100 percent proficient" folly? 

"Many Mass. graduates unprepared in college," by Peter Schworm, Boston Globe, April 16, 2008

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