Mass. man passes the MCAS on appeal after 9 tries
MARSHFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Brendan Wills was almost done opening presents on Christmas morning when he realized there was one gift still sitting under the tree.
The 23-year-old Marshfield man ripped off the wrapping paper and found a letter he has been waiting to read for more than three years. Brendan learned he’s a high school graduate.
‘‘As soon as I saw it was signed by the superintendent, I knew what it was,’’ Brendan said.
The letter, signed by Marshfield Superintendent Scott Borstel, confirmed that Brendan Wills, who has battled learning disabilities and physical ailments his whole life, had passed the MCAS test, and thus had earned a high school diploma.
Brendan has taken the MCAS nine times since 2007, failing the math portion every time. On each of his past three attempts, he fell just two points shy of the passing score. The state requires students to pass MCAS in order to graduate.
Since birth, Brendan has been treated for a variety of physical and cognitive problems. He was diagnosed with failure to thrive as a baby, meaning he fell short of most milestones during early development. These issues persisted throughout his childhood and into early adulthood.
Even though he walked with his classmates at Marshfield’s graduation in 2009, Wills couldn’t go on to attend certain colleges or pursue other opportunities that require a diploma.
That all changed last month when the state’s Department of Education notified Marshfield High School that Brendan had passed MCAS via the ‘‘cohort appeal.’’ This appeal, made collaboratively by Brendan, his family and the school, proved that Brendan’s performance in his coursework was comparable to that of other students.
On Tuesday afternoon, Brendan was handed his diploma during a ceremony in the high school principal’s office. In attendance were administrators, teachers, Brendan’s family and friends, including state Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield.
Brendan was an intern for Cantwell last year.
‘‘Having worked with him in public life, I can attest that he is a remarkable young man, and I am very proud of him.’’ Cantwell said.
On Dec. 21, the high school called Roberta Wills, Brendan’s mother, to tell her the results of the cohort appeal. She said the news was ‘‘a big weight off.’’
The school suggested the idea of wrapping up Brendan’s confirmation letter and putting it under the Christmas tree.
‘‘It was a really fun way for him to find out,’’ Roberta said.
Now that he’s a high school graduate, Brendan said he’s weighing his options before deciding on his next move.
He’s just relieved the next move isn’t another MCAS test.
‘‘It feels so good to have it behind me,’’ Brendan said. ‘‘I'm just so thankful for the community for sticking with us during this whole situation.’’