‘Achievement Gap’ Based on MCAS, Racist Test Designed to Indoctrinate

This Op-Ed was originally published by The Worcester Telegram.

Ruth Rodríguez Fay: ‘Achievement gap’ based on MCAS, racist test designed to indoctrinate

By: Ruth Rodríguez Fay
March 8, 2021

Roberta Schaefer’s op-ed, “Focus on student achievement, not race of candidates,” is an example of “white privileged” and highlights the racial disparities in education and the valid concerns of people of color.

The so-called “achievement gap” is solely based on MCAS, a racist, eugenics test that was designed to indoctrinate, not educate our Black and Latino students.

As Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson points out in his opinion piece, “MCAS is still racist,” because the test fails to include any Black history questions.

As a panelist on Harvard’s School-to-Prison Pipeline, I sat on a panel with a Suffolk County Juvenile Court judge who found that, “since the MCAS became a high school graduation requirement, he witnessed an increase of youth before his court of over 200%, the majority who were Blacks and Latinos, and over 95% had failed the test.”

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, Massachusetts was the worst state for Latinos to live in. We had the highest Latino youth incarceration and dropout rate – which I call “push out” – and Worcester public schools were expelling or suspending Latino students at 85% higher rate than white students for similar infractions.

I had the honor of serving on former Gov. Deval Patrick’s “Readiness Project” where we presented the governor with real pedagogical assessments, only to be told that MCAS is here to stay.

My response to the governor was, “I want to thank you, governor, for giving me the opportunity to serve on your Readiness Project on MCAS and Assessments. I’m sorry you did not to accept our recommendations, but instead you chose to continue the abusive, racist test; but I challenge anyone in this room, including you, governor, to immerse yourselves for one year in Spanish, then take the MCAS in Spanish, because that is what the state does to limited-English-speaking students – immerse (them) in English for one school year, and since many fail the test, they are denied a diploma.”

I believe that there is an achievement gap, but one that the white community fails to acknowledge – a gap that includes white students graduating from Worcester public schools with no knowledge of the history and the contributions of Blacks and Puerto Ricans to our democracy.

For example, students should learn that in 1917, barely a month before the U.S. entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act, granting U.S. citizenship to the inhabitants of Puerto Rico.

Students should know, too, that Puerto Ricans were recruited solely for the war effort, and since then they have served and died in every U.S. war at a higher rate than any other group.

Another history lesson missed by many of my Irish friends is how Puerto Rican leader Albizu Campos became a supportive force in Ireland’s struggle for independence. And we learned how history has compared these two Islands in their struggles against an oppressive regime.

Finally, before the implementation of the Chapter 71A Transitional Bilingual Program, Latino students in Worcester had the lowest graduation rates and high dropout rates.  Two years into the program, the dropout rate decreased and the graduation rate began to increase.

As the school community liaison working with the teachers and families, I witnessed first-hand the success of the program that was validating the language and culture of the students. Unfortunately, we had some leaders who denied the success of the program and launched a campaign to dismantle it.

I am sad to say that Roberta Schaefer was one of those who helped to force the one-year English-immersion Unz initiative that eliminated Worcester’s Bilingual Education Program that was helping so many English-language learners in my community.

Ruth Rodríguez Fay was the first school-community liaison hired for Worcester’s Transitional Bilingual Education Program.