Massachusetts mayor gets F in civics, but A for effort

A month ago, I mentioned the tale of a Massachusetts mayor who wanted to award special diplomas to students who had completed their classwork, but had not passed the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam. He said that even though passing the exam was “mandatory” under law, he wanted to give those students a “special” diploma.

This, predictably, irritated the hell out of those who had passed the MCAS system just three years ago. Governor Romney stated that if the New Bedford school district wanted to ignore the rules, they could do without state funding — to the tune of $100,000,000 a year.

Well, Mayor Scott Lang (no relation) took a long look at the situation, and has decided to back down. He says he’ll still continue to fight the MCAS system, but not by ignoring or violating the law.

The Boston Herald, predictably, opposed Lang’s plan. They applauded his change of tactics (if not heart), and cited several stories of students who repeatedly failed the test — only to finally pass it.

This whole story captures a few of my core beliefs about children and education. They need to learn that failure is an inevitable part of life, and everyone needs to learn how to deal with it. They need to learn that the real world recognizes real achievement and real accomplishments, not “efforts.” And they need to learn that (to steal a phrase from myself) whatever someone gives you, someone can take away.

It’s nice that Mayor Lang wanted to give the students awards for their hard work. But the state law specifically says what they need to do in order to earn their diplomas, and quite simply, they did not earn them. To give them those diplomas would cheapen the diplomas earned by their fellow students.

Perhaps MCAS isn’t the best system. Maybe it has flaws. But in my opinion, it’s better than nothing, and it is the law.

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