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Beginning with the class of 2003, all Massachusetts students must pass the state's high stakes test, MCAS, in order to graduate, which may significantly affect Massachusetts' already high dropout rate. According to this MCAS Alert, instead of remedying the problem of students who graduate without skills, this policy threatens to push the most vulnerable students out of school. Higher dropout rates are predictable consequences of high stakes testing. Currently, African American, Hispanic, and urban students are dramatically over-represented among dropouts. Faced with failing MCAS scores, many good students begin to doubt their academic ability and ability to graduate. Research indicates that high stakes testing can actually undermine student motivation. Student interviews suggest that MCAS is as likely to drive them away from school as to motivate them. Despite foreseeable increases in dropout rates, the Massachusetts DOE has not taken any steps to anticipate, monitor, and address the impact of MCAS on dropout problems. The state should immediately: suspend the policy of linking MCAS scores to graduation; renew its commitment to dropout prevention; and begin working with local districts and professional associations to design a multifaceted assessment system to improve learning for all students. Sidebars present the predictable push-out consequences of high stakes testing and Massachusetts districts to watch. (SM)

Descriptors: Black Students, Dropout Prevention, Dropout Rate, Equal Education, High Risk Students, High Schools, High Stakes Tests, Hispanic American Students, Minority Groups, Student Motivation, Urban Schools

FairTest/CARE, 342 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139-1802. Tel: 617-864-4810; Fax: 617-497-2222; Email: info[at]; Web site:

Autor: Capodilupo, Christina; Wheelock, Anne


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