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'No' Is the Right Answer

By Eleanor Martin

On May 17, a dozen sophomores at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School decided not to take the state- mandated Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Test, better known as the MCAS. I was one of them.

For weeks we had carefully researched the political and moral issues at stake. We were aware that it was going to be difficult to refuse the test. When you are a sophomore in high school, it is not easy to go against the orders of your teachers, your advisors, your school, and your state. We were not certain of the punishment that we would receive. Detention, suspension, expulsion? All had been mentioned as possibilities.

When we announced what we were going to do, we received a lot of opposition. We were told that we were going to bring down the cumulative score of our house and of the entire school. But we believed, and still do, that the reasons for fighting this test are more important than any score.

Beginning with the class of 2003, high school students who fail the MCAS test will not be able to graduate. We believe that a single test should not determine the success and future of a student.

How can four years of learning and growing be assessed by a single standardized test? There are so many things that students learn throughout high school - how to play an instrument, act, draw, paint. They learn photography, how to program a computer, fix a car engine, cook tortellini Alfredo, throw a pot, or design a set for a play. Many students say these are among the most important skills they learn in high school, yet all are skills the MCAS fails to recognize.

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