Advocates push for elimination of MCAS graduation requirements, state receivership

The Thrive Act has garnered the support of many students and teachers. Proponents of the legislation gathered Wednesday at the State House.

Educators, parents, and students gathered Wednesday on Beacon Hill to advocate for legislation that would eliminate the use of MCAS test scores for high school graduation requirements and do away with the state’s ability to take over local schools. 

The legislation would also establish a new commission to create a “more authentic and accurate system for assessing students, schools, and school districts.”

The gathering, which began at Church on the Hill and moved to the State House, was organized by the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance. The group and its allies are hoping to get lawmakers to support the Thrive Act

Supporters of the legislation argue that MCAS, a series of standardized tests administered to students every year, unfairly and negatively impacts students of color and those with Individualized Education Plans. To graduate high school, students must pass the English Language Arts, Math, and Science, Technology & Engineering MCAS tests. 


MCAS testing would continue if the Thrive Act is passed, but it would no longer be used as a graduation requirement. Instead, students would have to demonstrate “mastery” of these skills by “satisfactorily completing coursework.”

Since 2010, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has the ability to take over local schools and districts. Schools in Lawrence, Holyoke, and Southbridge remain under state control, and DESE officials considered taking over Boston Public Schools last year. Mayor Michelle Wu and many other officials and advocates opposed the move. 

An analysis from The Boston Globe last year found that state receivership has done little to improve test scores, graduation rates, college enrollment, and more metrics. 

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and Boston Teachers Union have all thrown their support behind the Thrive Act. 

Opponents of the legislation say that state receivership is important because it puts pressure on struggling schools to take decisive action. Last year, DESE issued a scathing report assessing the state of the BPS system. 

“If you’re a parent of a BPS student and you have limited options, wouldn’t you want your superintendent or commissioner to take action to fix your son or daughter’s failing school?” Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education Executive Director Ed Lambert told the Globe earlier this year.


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