Endorsements for replacing MCAS grad requirement arriving as ballot campaign surges ahead

Endorsements for replacing MCAS grad requirement arriving as ballot campaign surges ahead

Important education and racial justice organizations have recently stated their support for the ballot initiative

With campaign endorsements coming in and news that signature gathering for the petition initiative has far exceeded goals, the MTA Board of Directors over the weekend embraced plans to bring a ballot question to replace the MCAS high school graduation requirement to voters in November.

The MTA board celebrated the news that the required second round of signature gathering for the ballot initiative process far surpassed its goal of collecting 20,000 names to reach the required 12,000 names of certified, registered voters for advancing the question. Educators, parents and public education advocates supporting the campaign turned in more than 32,500 signatures from voters across the state.

Important education and racial justice organizations have recently stated their support for the ballot initiative. The Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment, and the Massachusetts School Counselors Association have all endorsed the campaign to end the use of high-stakes testing as a state requirement for graduation, replacing it with local certification that a student has completed coursework that meets all of the state’s academic standards.

This past week, New York, a state with a very strong public education system, became the most recent and most prominent state to decouple standardized testing from a high-school diploma, instead proposing the use of more authentic and educator-driven assessment methods. New York’s move toward a fairer and more equitable system for a graduation requirement leaves Massachusetts in the company of Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, New Jersey and Wyoming as the last remaining states to use a standardized test as a prerequisite to a diploma. The ballot question will not affect the continued use of the MCAS as a diagnostic tool.

Keep the high standards. End the high stakes.

MTA President Max Page and Vice President Deb McCarthy released the following statement about the campaign:

Our members have been adamant for years that the MCAS graduation requirement needs to be replaced because it has created an over-emphasis on the standardized exams across all grade levels. The MCAS exams will remain in place as a diagnostic tool. But after the ballot question passes, we will replace the punitive graduation requirement with a renewed focus on our best-in-the-nation state standards and academic frameworks, which guide educators and schools.

We want every student to be challenged by rigorous work, and we also want them to find the joy in learning and to understand that a test is a tool, not a goal. Massachusetts has remarkable, highly skilled and well-trained educators. The ballot question lets educators do their job, as it replaces the MCAS graduation requirement with a requirement that students demonstrate that they have mastered the skills and knowledge required by the standards through successful completion of coursework embodying those standards.

While approximately 700 students each year are denied a diploma simply because they did not pass a tenth-grade MCAS exam — yet completed their coursework — is an injustice that must be immediately corrected, this campaign is about the larger question of what kind of educational experience do we want for our children.

Massachusetts is one of just eight states left using a standardized test as a graduation requirement, as other states with high-performing, public school systems have dropped the antiquated practice. To move this initiative to the ballot, we collected more than 130,000 signatures in the fall and another 32,500 signatures this spring. In gathering that record-breaking number of signatures, countless conversations occurred in every part of the Commonwealth, where parents and students shared their feelings about high-stakes testing.

And the message was clear: Keep the high standards. End the high stakes.