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Parents, Educators Urge End to MCAS Graduation Requirement

by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Servic

Parents and educators in Massachusetts are joining forces to end the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) high school graduation requirement.

They’re combining two ballot initiatives, which would require the state to replace the standardized exam with local certification of academic success to earn a degree.

Lexington public high school parent Shelley Scruggs said it would also work retroactively to ensure those denied their diploma for failing the test can attain one.

“This really is a mark against the student, and it’s for the rest of their lives,” said Scruggs. “I think it’s really unfair.”

A Massachusetts Teachers Association poll found 74% of poll respondents support a policy in which students would still take the tests, but wouldn’t need a passing grade to graduate.

Introduced legislation entitled the Thrive Act would also allow school districts to use coursework to determine a student’s mastery of English, math and science as required by state standards – rather than a one-time test.

Massachusetts Teachers Association Vice President Deb McCarthy said that would improve outcomes for historically disenfranchised students.

“The research shows us that there’s a direct correlation between ZIP codes and the test scores,” said McCarthy, “and it really is an opportunity gap, not an achievement gap.”

Educators say standardized tests are especially difficult for students with Individualized Education Plans, English language learners, and students from low-income communities.

Massachusetts is one of only eight states requiring high school students to pass a test to receive their diploma.

by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Service

Kathryn Carley began her career in community radio, and is happy to be back, covering the New England region for Public News Service. Getting her start at KFAI in Minneapolis, Carley graduated from the University of Minnesota and then worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, focusing on energy and agriculture. Moving to Washington, D.C., she filed stories for The Pacifica Network News and The Pacifica Report. Later, Carley worked as News Host for New York Public Radio, WNYC as well as Co-Anchor for Newsweek’s long running radio program, Newsweek on Air. Carley also served as News Anchor for New York Times Radio. She now lives near Boston, MA.

Languages Spoken: English

Topic Expertise: education, environment, nuclear energy

Local Expertise: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, New York City, Wisconsin, Minnesota

Demographic Expertise: public schools, families, children, nutrition

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