MCAS Graduation Requirement

The Massachusetts High Technology Council strongly opposes any weakening of the MCAS graduation requirement. As a result, the Council is extremely dismayed by today’s report that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) is considering changes that would lower and delay implementation of the benchmark goal for the percentage of students scoring “proficient” on the MCAS.

As reported by the Boston Globe, a BESE taskforce essentially concluded that a large segment of Massachusetts students simply are not up to the challenge of passing MCAS. That is wrong and unfair. We have learned from the history of the MCAS graduation requirement that when Massachusetts students and teachers are given clear standards and the proper support they consistently rise to the challenge. There is no room for some advocates of these standards to hide behind lagging minority MCAS scores as a rationale to delay stronger graduation requirements when the state recently passed a comprehensive education reform package geared in large part to closing the minority achievement gap.

In an effort to improve Massachusetts’ second attempt to earn a share of the $4.3 billion federal Race to the Top (RTTT) funding, some education experts worry that Massachusetts officials will abandon MCAS in favor of the weaker and less concrete evaluation system now being pushed by Washington. The RTTT application process rewards those states that adopt Washington’s preferred assessment system and penalizes states, like Massachusetts, that have higher standards.

The Patrick Administration should pop this trial balloon immediately. The potential windfall of one-time RTTT funds does not justify scrapping a major pillar of our educational success over the past two decades.

Massachusetts leads the nation on a number of educational standards and that is because we have the most rigorous standards and accountability systems in the country. Backtracking on MCAS will allow other states to catch up and competitor nations to move further ahead in the global education race.