Female high school student taking a test and using a calculator.

Public Supports Changes to High-Stakes Testing for MA Students

by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Service

As educators across Massachusetts prepare to administer high-stakes tests for students this spring, new polling shows the public supports changes to the often stressful graduation requirement.

Seventy-four percent of poll respondents support a policy in which students would still take the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests, but wouldn’t need a passing grade to graduate.

Massachusetts Teachers Association vice president Deb McCarthy said the tests fail to reflect the depth and diversity of students’ intelligence and learning styles.

“The score,” said McCarthy, “is simply a measure of who is a good test taker.”

McCarthy said recently introduced legislation – entitled the Thrive Act – would 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 standardized test.

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

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

McCarthy said removing the pressure of high-stakes testing would improve outcomes for historically disenfranchised students.

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

The Thrive Act would also eliminate the state’s power to take over underperforming schools, which tend to be located in some of the poorest communities with lower MCAS scores.

Backers of the legislation say it would give students, parents, and educators a greater say in how their schools are run.

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

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