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Volume 26, Number 2
March/April 2010

Film Looks at Those ‘Left Behind’ by High-Stakes Tests


Shannon McDermott in the film, "Children Left Behind." Shannon was denied her high school diploma in 2006 because she was unable to pass the MCAS.

This spring, students all over Massachusetts are sitting down to take the MCAS, the standardized tests that all students must pass in order to receive a high school diploma. Last year, some 96 percent of all high school seniors made the grade. But what about the small percent who don’t graduate each year because they’ve failed the test—sometimes after taking it over and over again? Who are they? What happens to them?

These questions began plaguing Dr. Louis Kruger back in 2003, the year the high-stakes tests became a graduation requirement. As director of the school psychology program at Northeastern University, he set out to research the children lost in MCAS limbo. “I wanted to put a human face on the data,’’ Kruger recalls. Most of these students who fail are English language learners, students with disabilities, and/or members of ethnic minorities—the very students that high-stakes tests were designed to help.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.