It’s Time to Let Students Thrive

High Standards, Not High Stakes

The Thrive Act maintains Massachusetts’ rigorous and nationally respected academic standards. The Thrive Act discontinues two failing policies: We stop using standardized MCAS scores to block students from graduating high school. We stop using standardized MCAS scores to place school districts under state control.

Urge your legislators to pass the Thrive Act

Take Action to Pass the Thrive Act

The Thrive Act's comprehensive approach centers student learning by

  • Replacing the MCAS as a high school graduation requirement
  • Ending the undemocratic state takeover system
  • Establishing a commission to give our communities a voice in building a better assessment and accountability system

Please email your legislators right away and urge them to heed the call of their constituents and prioritize the passage of the Thrive Act this legislative session.

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MCAS Petition Drive

Final signatures delivered for ballot question to end MCAS graduation requirement

The MTA reached a pivotal milestone in its ballot campaign to end high-stakes testing tied to the high school graduation requirement.

On Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, MTA leaders, parents, educators and allies delivered the last boxes of signatures to the Secretary of State's office, bringing the total count to 135,000 – more than any other ballot initiative campaigns this election cycle.

Parents, supporters and MTA educators celebrated this monumental achievement on the steps of the State House. The success of signature gathering for the ballot campaign reflects the groundswell of public support the MTA initiative has received from parents, families and the general public.

Massachusetts is among eight states in the country that currently link standardized tests to graduation requirements.

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An Outlier in High-Stakes Testing

Massachusetts is one of the few states in the country to require a high school graduation test
U.S. map

Massachusetts likes to brag that it has an exceptional national reputation for public education, but in one aspect, it’s a straggling outlier. The state requires a high school graduation test for a diploma, one of just eight that continue to do so.

Massachusetts, which administers the MCAS-based graduation test in the 10th grade, is joined by Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

This number doesn’t include New Jersey, which deferred the test in the pandemic, and now has legislation to remove it, although it has yet to act.

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This story appeared in the fall edition of MTA Today.

Reaching the 2024 Ballot

How Do We Get There?
Getting on the ballot

All ballot initiatives follow a specific process in Massachusetts. The MTA has already cleared several steps in getting a ballot question before voters to end the high school graduation requirement of the MCAS, but we have several more to go.

What does the initiative petition say?

The proposed law would eliminate the requirement that a student pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests (or other statewide or district-wide assessments) in mathematics, science and technology, and English in order to receive a high school diploma. Instead, in order for a student to receive a high school diploma, the proposed law would require the student to complete coursework certified by the student’s district as demonstrating mastery of the competencies contained in the state academic standards in mathematics, science and technology, and English, as well as any additional areas determined by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Read more in MTA Today

Educators have long called for an end to the punishing high-stakes testing regime

High-stakes testing and the associated accountability measures have undermined our public education system for far too long.

Massachusetts is only one of eight states in the country that ties its standardized test to graduation. The change in attitudes about exit exams is likely related to research indicating that exit exams don't increase academic achievement.

The current testing system reduces time to teach, narrows the curriculum, adds stress and reduces creativity and misuses education dollars. The punitive aspects of the MCAS regime are especially detrimental to students with Individualized Education Plans, students learning English as a second language, students of color and and students from groups that have been historically marginalized from an equitable and supportive education.

Legislation to eliminate the high-stakes components of the MCAS tests

An Act Empowering Students and Schools to Thrive, better known as the Thrive Act, would replace the MCAS graduation requirement with one that allows students’ districts to certify that they have satisfactorily completed coursework showing mastery of the skills, competencies and knowledge required by the state standards.

Learn More about the Thrive AcT

Take Action to End High-Stakes Testing

Legislative Priorities announcement on Dec. 8 2022

MCAS incentivize schools to 'teach to the test, narrow the curriculum'

When MTA member Jack Schneider spoke on the impact of the MCAS exams at a State House press conference in December 2022, he teared up at the emotional toll the standardized test has had on his own child.

The high-stakes nature of the test, said Schneider, a professor of education at UMass Lowell who studies the impact of MCAS and school rankings, "incentivizes schools to game the system, to do things like teach to the test and narrow the curriculum."

The high-stakes test has been a hot-button issue for students and educators since the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, which created the MCAS accountability system.


We Need High Standards, Not High Stakes

MCAS tests penalizes students who are not good test-takers

“This standardized test assesses my child, who is not the standard"

“The MCAS is about individualism, ranking, sorting and isolating our youth”

Receivership impacts staff retention

“The MCAS experiment has been a failure”

Our students are so much more than a score

Show more...

"This is part of a broken system that has been going on for far too long."

MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy
Deeper Dive
Testing & Young Children
Get the facts on why testing is harmful to young children – as well as the right questions to ask.

Defending the Early Years and FairTest

Why Testing Must Go
Reason #1: Making major decisions based on standardized tests – has failed.

Citizens for Public Schools

What Test Scores Tell Us
Students’ test scores tell us more about the community they live in than what they know.

Christopher Tienken, Seton Hall U.