MTA backs Comerford bill calling for MCAS moratorium

MTA backs Comerford bill calling for MCAS moratorium


The MTA renewed its call today for establishing a moratorium on MCAS testing — a call made even more urgent by the disruptions in education caused by the coronavirus pandemic, school closures, and the challenges of remote teaching in a crisis.

“In this moment in America, there is a growing awareness of the way that systemic racism is foundational in our public institutions — including education — and there is a vibrant movement to dismantle it,” said MTA President Merrie Najimy.

New MCAS bill

S. 2986, filed by Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), establishes a four-year moratorium on MCAS tests and forbids the high-stakes use of standardized tests.

Read the Bill

“Research has shown that statewide assessments like the MCAS essentially reflect and perpetuate social, racial and economic inequality,” she continued. “Now more than ever, we need to eliminate MCAS and redefine the ways our public schools are assessed based on what our communities value.”

The MTA is backing a new bill (S. 2986) filed by Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) establishing a four-year moratorium on the administration of all MCAS tests and forbidding the use of any standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about students, educators, schools and districts. A similar effort is underway in the House.

“Returning to learning in the fall will require complex planning, safety precautions, and possibly dramatic changes to pedagogy and curricula,” said Senator Comerford. “As Massachusetts students and teachers do the tireless work of learning recovery and rebuilding community engagement and trust, pressure-filled high-stakes testing should be the very last thing on their minds.”

“As Massachusetts students and teachers do the tireless work of learning recovery and rebuilding community engagement and trust, pressure-filled high-stakes testing should be the very last thing on their minds.”

Senator Jo Comerford

The legislation would place a four-year moratorium on the use of MCAS as a graduation requirement since that is established under state law and is not a federal requirement. It would establish a commission to work out a better alternative to the current requirement.

It would also require the commissioner of elementary and secondary education to request a U.S. Department of Education waiver from requirements for statewide assessments, accountability and reporting. Those requirements are established under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As a result of the pandemic and school closures, states across the country were granted waivers from those requirements this year. MCAS tests were not administered this spring, and high school graduation was contingent on meeting local requirements — not passing certain MCAS tests.

“The education of all of our students has been turned upside down as crisis learning remotely has disproportionately impacted students from low-income families and communities of color — a consequence of structural racism,” Najimy said.

“Many of these students were unable to participate fully in crisis learning for a variety of reasons, including the lack of computers, internet access and institutional support,” she said. “MCAS would do nothing more than reflect those problems. Worse, it would be used as a weapon to deem these students and schools as ‘failing.’ These pandemic-related disruptions are likely to continue next year and to have a long tail, impacting test results for years to come.”

“It is time to reassess both what is taught and how learning is assessed going forward.”

MTA President Merrie Najimy

Najimy said that instead of relying on MCAS, the state should make sure there is enough funding, professional development, technology, and social and emotional support for students and families to weather continued disruptions in education.

“It is time to reassess both what is taught and how learning is assessed going forward,” Najimy said. “The pandemic has coincided with the racial justice movement, creating many crises but also many opportunities to educate students differently. Educators demand the freedom to work with students and families to develop curricula that are actively antiracist to reflect and affirm students of color, their histories and their cultures.

“MCAS is one of the largest barriers to accomplishing these goals,” Najimy concluded. “Ending it is the first step in the right direction.”