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Eye On Education: Board Votes To Create New MCAS Test For 2017

MALDEN (CBS) -- The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has made its choice, the so-called "MCAS 2.0," will be developed to track our kids' progress.  And they're not giving themselves a lot of time to create the new test.  Today's vote calls for students to start taking the test in 2017.

"This is the path to a next generation assessment system for the Commonwealth.  I'm very pleased with the outcome today," says Mitchell Chester, the Commissioner of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

He's the main architect of the new test, a hybrid using parts of the MCAS and parts of another assessment called PARCC, which has been tested here in Massachusetts.

"I just think it bodes well for the future of the Commonwealth and for the education system going forward," Chester says.

Eye On Education: PARCC Vs. MCAS

Tuesday's 8 to 3 vote means work can begin developing the new assessment to replace 18 years of MCAS use.  But not everyone was convinced.

"I don't think we ought to abandon MCAS.  Why buy a pig in a poke," says board member Ed Doherty.

"The testing and the use of these tests is wrong.  I firmly believe that we are being led down a bad path by those who want to push the test and punish mode of education reform," Doherty added.

But the head of the Education Board says MCAS is out of date and no longer doing what it's supposed to do.  The PARCC has been used experimentally in the state, but he's not completely satisfied with that either.  That's why the proposal called for a new test.  The other major concern some board members had was whether the new test could be ready by 2017.

"It's an aggressive timeline, but we think it's doable in part because we are building on existing development.  We're not starting from scratch," says Comm. Chester.

But that wasn't good enough for the majority of the board.  They passed an amendment that would not penalize schools for weak scores during the first year of the new test.

The president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association was also at Tuesday's meeting and was definitely not happy with the outcome.  She wants a 3 year moratorium on high stakes tests.

"The possibility for joy, curiosity, imagination, moral courage, none of that is talked about when we talk about testing.  We've entered a rabbit hole and we have to exit that rabbit hole," says Barbara Madeloni of the Teachers Association.

While the work on the new test is going on, high school students will still be required to pass the MCAS in order to graduate.

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