Governor Charlie Baker and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley should go back to the drawing board.
The following statement was issued today by Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy:
We congratulate the Legislature for listening to the people of Massachusetts and approving a bill last night that waives the MCAS test-administration requirement this spring. Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill today.
The new law also gives Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley the option of waiving the mandate that seniors in the Class of 2020 meet the MCAS-based competency determination in order to graduate. We urge the commissioner to exercise that right, leaving it to districts to determine which students have met local graduation requirements in this disrupted season.
All 50 states have been given federal waivers to cancel test-administration requirements this spring, and at least 40 states have already done so. In addition, nearly all of the 11 states that still have test-based graduation requirements have already waived their state mandates for this year.
Once the governor ordered schools closed until at least May 4, it was obvious to educators and parents that Massachusetts should join the many other states that have already canceled their test-administration requirements this spring, a move that the federal government permitted for any state that filed for a waiver.
In Massachusetts, there was resistance to canceling the requirement outright in some quarters, so MTA members and our coalition partners flooded the Legislature and Riley with calls insisting that they support a bill that mandated cancellation.
With the Senate leadership taking the initiative, the Senate passed a bill canceling the test-administration requirement on Thursday morning. The House followed suit in the late afternoon, and Baker signed it today.
The law includes an emergency preamble, meaning it takes effect immediately, removing one point of stress from students and educators in this stressful season of the coronavirus.
Educators, students and families have long criticized the MCAS testing regimen for narrowly defining the curriculum and for being used to punish schools and districts. Pausing MCAS this year provides all of us with an opportunity to rethink the testing requirements.