MTA to kickstart signature-gathering campaign for ballot question after AG’s green light

MTA to kickstart signature-gathering campaign for ballot question after AG’s green light

Ballot question will require districts to certify that students have demonstrated mastery of the state standards

The MTA-supported ballot petition to replace the graduation requirement tied to the MCAS exam was certified today by the state Attorney General’s office, allowing the largest union in Massachusetts and its community allies to formally kickstart its 11-week sprint to gather more than 75,000 signatures for the question to appear on the November 2024 statewide ballot.

"MTA educators are committed to creating the best learning environment for all students,” said MTA President Max Page and Vice President Deb McCarthy. “Today’s decision by the state Attorney General’s office will allow us to make the case directly to voters at the ballot box on why we must replace the harmful graduation requirement tied to the MCAS exams. This ballot initiative would make students eligible for a high school diploma if, among other requirements, they complete coursework demonstrating mastery of competencies in our state’s high academic standards.”

Making changes to the high-stakes testing system in Massachusetts has robust support among potential voters. A poll conducted in June for the MTA by Echo Cove Research showed strong support for the Thrive Act and for a potential ballot question on the graduation requirement. In the survey of 800 registered voters, 73 percent of respondents said they would support eliminating the graduation requirement tied to the MCAS, and in its place require schools to certify students for graduation if they demonstrate a mastery of the skills and knowledge required by state standards.

Concurrently, the MTA and coalition partners will continue to support the Thrive Act legislation, which in addition to ending the use of MCAS as a graduation requirement ̶ will no longer allow standardized exams to be used as a mechanism for the state takeover of locally controlled school districts. As a replacement for the graduation requirement, school districts would have to certify that students have mastered the skills, competencies, and knowledge required by the state standards.

About the ballot question: 

This ballot question would align Massachusetts with the 42 states that don’t use a single, high-stakes test to deny diplomas to high school students. If approved by voters at the ballot box, passing the MCAS would no longer be a graduation requirement, students would still take the MCAS, as required by federal and state law.

Our MTA members across the state know that high-stakes testing harms all schools by overly focusing on test preparation at the exclusion of more valuable, real learning in the classroom.

The MTA has been trying for years to make changes to the high-stakes testing system causing harm in preK-12 public schools, especially among BIPOC and immigrant students and those with learning disabilities. Given the urgency on the part of educators and parents to begin overhauling the high-stakes aspects of the MCAS regimen, the MTA is eager to further the process at the ballot box.

In 2022, the MTA’s 117,000 members were instrumental in securing passage of the Fair Share Amendment, which will provide the state about $2 billion a year in new revenue for bolstering public education and transportation. The constitutional amendment has resulted in a fiscal 2024 state budget that includes robust spending for public higher education, a significant first step in decreasing the debt burden on college and university students.

Get the Facts: Check Out Our Guide to the Signature Gathering Campaign