Kids Can't Wait

We've Just Begun to Try; It's Not the Time to Delay

For decades, too many students in Massachusetts and across the country have graduated from high school without the skills they need to do well in college or in a job.

Too many high school graduates end up in second class jobs because they can't pass the 6th grade English and math tests employers use to screen new employees. And too many college students are surprised to find themselves in remedial courses because they fail freshman placement tests.

Those of us in schools know this. Teachers and administrators have tried hard to change this picture. In the past, few people outside schools paid much attention to us. We had a quiet crisis.

No more. The adoption of statewide academic standards and tests that count in English and math have created a public crisis - and a response.

For the first time ever, we have the attention of the public and leadership - and extraordinary new resources to focus on students left behind in the past.

    •State leaders have supported consistent increases in funding, including $7.3 Billion since 1993 and $40 million in emergency funds for extra support programs this year.

    •Teachers and administrators are focused on important measurable goals in English and math - writing, math and problem-solving skills that give students the basis for success.

    •Students who might have slipped through the cracks, earning C's and D's but never developing the skills those grades suggest, are getting access to extra help they need.

Has progress been made as quickly as we would like? No. Can we improve the MCAS? Yes. But should we stop or delay, and give up on the Class of 2008 in the 10th grade? No.

Students failing the English and math MCAS tests lack the skills they need to succeed. Our job - as schools and communities - is to guarantee them those skills before they graduate.

Now is not the time to make legislative changes that back away from the progress we have made. MCAS is not the issue. It is our response to the Class of 2008 that matters. That is the standard by which we should evaluate ourselves, at each step of the way, over the next two years.

We share concerns critics have raised about the way testing has been implemented. The Department of Education has made changes that deal with some of these issues. We will assure that all steps are taken so that all students have a fair opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

It is time to lower the rhetoric on all sides of the testing debate, give teachers and schools the support they need and focus on what really matters now: The extraordinary effort to help the Class of 2008 and the other students who can't wait for delays.

Co-signers of the Statement to Legislators:

Thomas Payzant, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools

James Caradonio, Superintendent, Worcester Public Schools

Teresa E. Regina, Superintendent, Springfield Public Schools

Ronald Pacy, Superintendent, Attleboro Public Schools

Russ Dever, Superintendent, Barnstable Public Schools

Irene Cornish, Superintendent, Chelsea Public Schools

Barbara Cove, Superintendent, Chicopee Public Schools

Fred Foresteire, Superintendent, Everett Public Schools

Philip Fallon, Superintendent, Fitchburg Public Schools

Arthur Tate, Superintendent, Haverhill Public Schools

Wilfredo Laboy, Superintendent, Lawrence Public Schools

Karla Brooks Baehr, Superintendent, Lowell Public Schools

James Mazareas, Superintendent, Lynn Public Schools

James Silva, Superintendent, New Bedford Public Schools

Kathleen Smith, Superintendent, Newburyport Public Schools

Carol Tye, Superintendent, Revere Public Schools

Albert Argenziano, Superintendent, Somerville Public Schools

Gerald Croteau, Superintendent, Taunton Public Schools

Sally Dias, Superintendent, Watertown Public Schools

Carl Batchelder, Superintendent, Woburn Public Schools