New poll shows strong public support for higher ed funding and changes to high-stakes testing

New poll shows strong public support for higher ed funding and changes to high-stakes testing

Mass. voters also voiced positive perception of educators, support for right to strike

As schools across Massachusetts prepare to administer the MCAS this spring, a new poll by Echo Cove Research shows strong public support for changing the high-stakes nature of this test, as recommended by the Thrive Act. Currently, Massachusetts is one of only eight states requiring high school students to pass a standardized test to receive their diploma, even though there is no proven correlation between a state having a graduation exam requirement and overall academic performance.

The poll – conducted via an online survey from February 8-21, 2023 with a sample size of 750 voters ages 21 and older – also revealed positive perception of educators and robust support for several other aspects of the MTA’s legislative agenda for 2023, including funding for public higher education, and the legalization of the right to strike for most public employees.

“Massachusetts voters have spoken. Just as we’ve seen in towns and cities during contract negotiations, this poll reveals that communities trust and support educators working day in and day out to nurture our young peoples’ social and emotional growth and love for learning,” MTA President Max Page said. “With such strong public support for our priorities – high-quality, debt free public higher education, replacing the high-stakes testing regime with a more accurate assessment system, and the right to strike for educators – we are more determined than ever to pass this comprehensive set of legislation so Massachusetts can live up to its promise of having the best public education system in the country for all residents, no matter their age, race or income.”

When asked about the MCAS, 74% of poll respondents supported a policy in which students would still take the MCAS but wouldn’t need a passing grade to receive a diploma. Instead, schools would have alternative ways to assess students’ readiness for graduation based on their mastery of the skills and knowledge required by state standards. 78% of participants showed support for ending the state receivership system for lower-performing schools, and 83% favored establishing a state commission to study and make recommendations on a better assessment system, one that considers more than just test scores.

“Bay Staters are demanding that more is done to boost equity in education, and they are realizing that tying graduation to the MCAS is harming all our kids,” MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy. “Parents want and need their children to have access to the kind of holistic education they deserve and that will prepare them for a happy, successful future.”

Support for public higher education funding and the Cherish Act was equally robust. 81% of survey participants were in favor of providing support services for disadvantaged students to increase their likelihood of graduating, and 74% supported guaranteeing that all students can graduate debt-free. 87% of survey participants supported providing a living wage, health insurance and retirement benefits to adjunct faculty and support staff, and 82% supported an increase in wages for higher education faculty to account for inflation.

“The MTA was instrumental in passing the Fair Share Amendment, which will provide billions of dollars for public education and transportation, including achieving high-quality, debt-free public higher education,” said Page. “This poll reminds us that there is overwhelming support for that goal.”

On Right to Strike legislation—which would allow educators and other public sector employees, excluding public safety officials, to strike after six months of collective bargaining—66% of survey respondents think that educators should have the right to strike, a number that is likely tied to respondents’ favorable views of educators in their communities. 75% of respondents said they have a favorable view of teachers/educators in their cities/towns, the highest percentage for any of the other public officials and organizations they were asked about, which included Governor Healey (57% favorability), their local school committees (55%), and the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (52%).