Healey: Let’s focus on those facing MCAS hurdle

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State House News Service

Published: 03-20-2024 10:59 AM

BOSTON — Gov. Maura Healey’s team is looking into what more the state can do to help high school students who do not pass the MCAS exam, but she gave voice Tuesday to her opposition to a potential ballot question that would force the state to stop using the annual exam as a high school graduation requirement.

Education Secretary Patrick Tutwiler previously said that he and Healey did not agree with the ballot push, which is being led by the Massachusetts Teachers Association. But on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” on Tuesday, the governor put her opposition into her own words.

“I think that assessment is important, we need to be able to assess how our young people are doing. So I do not support getting rid of MCAS,” Healey said. “I think there’s a question about what do we do for young people, and there are about 700 each year, who are unable to pass MCAS and therefore do not receive a high school diploma. We’ve got to find a way to take care of those young people, get them what they need, and see them through. So that’s a different discussion that my team is engaged on right now. But I think that it’s important to maintain the ability to assess our young people.”

The question that could go before voters in November would not get rid of the MCAS tests, but would decouple the standardized test results from graduation requirements. Instead, each district could set graduation requirements based on completion of coursework that’s certified as demonstrating mastery of the competencies contained in the state academic standards.

Healey appeared to be drawing on data compiled in the fall by Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Matt Hills, who found that about 700 students per year, or 1 percent of each class, met local standards for graduation but left high school without a diploma solely because they did not get sufficient MCAS scores. The MCAS exams were created as part of the 1993 education reform law and passage became a high school graduation requirement in 2003.

A special legislative committee heard testimony from both sides of the MCAS issue in early March. The Legislature can either approve the ballot question, pass an alternative bill or let the question go to the ballot. If the House and Senate take no action by May 1, sponsors must collect more voter signatures to secure a spot on the November ballot.

Last month, the Senate chair of the Education Committee presented an order giving the committee until the end of June to keep working on 10 bills related to assessments like MCAS.

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