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THRIVE Act: What’s in the bill that impacts MCAS for students & schools

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BOSTON (WWLP) – Conversation revolving around education reform is nothing new on Beacon Hill, but a bill sponsored by a local Senator Jo Comerford is looking to change requirements tied to the MCAS exam.

New legislation is trying to end the MCAS graduation requirement and change the state’s school takeover system, but not everyone is on board. Currently, Massachusetts students have to pass the MCAS in order to graduate.

Under the THRIVE Act, it would be academic coursework that would be the determining factor in whether a student graduates or not. The bill would also do away with the state’s takeover system. It would instead set up a process for schools that need support to work with their community to create an improvement plan.

“Let’s just stop getting away from the rigid, pretty punitive system where one test gets to determine whether a student is competent in a single area and then in fact if that test doesn’t work for that student or they have anxiety or English isn’t their first language, all of these issues could prevent a student from getting a high school diploma,” explained state Senator Jo Comerford.

The THRIVE Act would not completely eliminate the MCAS, it would simply do away with the graduation requirement. Not everyone is in favor of this change.

The Massachusetts High Technology Council testified against the bill, believing it would undermine standards Massachusetts has set in the education realm. They shared in a statement: “It is critically important to the Massachusetts economy that the state retains a strong statewide standard and not walk away from the accountability system that has helped make Massachusetts a national leader in education.”

The Massachusetts Teachers Association has expressed its support for the change and has for many years expressed its concerns about the negative impact of the MCAS graduation requirement on students and limiting curriculum.

According to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, every year about 700 students do not receive a diploma due to failing the MCAS exam.

Now voters may be able to weigh in on this debate. Advocates are working to gather signatures to bring the MCAS graduation requirement to a ballot question for voters in 2024.


Ellen Fleming is a reporter at the Boston State House who has been a part of the 22News team since 2022. Follow Ellen on X @EllenFlem and view her bio to see more of her work.