MCAS is a Mess

As many current juniors remember, last year’s English MCAS was special, to say the least. An entire essay prompt was voided because it was racist–after everyone had already worked hard on their responses. The question asked us to write from the perspective of an openly racist character and explain what the character thought when meeting a runaway slave (which would not be positive). Students taking the test in Boston noticed this and reported the question to their teachers. Soon after, we were delivered the news that the question got thrown out.  Seemed harmless; maybe the scoring would just remove those points from the test. We were all disgruntled about it for a few hours (after all, that was a lengthy response we had to write) but then forgot about it. 

That is, until last Thursday, when some of us received an email stating that we could retake the MCAS if we wanted to. This retake would give us the opportunity to receive the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, which provides tuition for four years at any Massachusetts community college, state college, or University of Massachusetts. That’s a pretty good offer in a time when some private universities are charging over $70,000 for one year, though that’s a discussion for another time. 

If eligible to retake (where retaking could place the student in the top 25% of the class), students must register by October 9th. The retakes themselves will be held from November 6th to the 8th — during class time, which is mildly annoying. The test will also be on paper instead of on computers. Again, mildly annoying. But perhaps most irksome of all is that the retake is not just one prompt (which is what was voided), it’s an entire ELA section. Even myself, who voluntarily writes for the school newspaper, would not look forward to redoing MCAS reading comprehension questions. They’re torturous. 

That being said, no one is forcing anyone to do retakes. It’s just strange how the same question got thrown out on everyone’s test, yet some of our scores were compromised. Wouldn’t everyone’s score still be the same, just out of fewer points? In my biased opinion, we should have gotten those points for free. Silly, I know, but it’s not our fault that the test makers decided to throw in a racist question. 

Sophia Piper

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