Next phase to replace MCAS graduation requirement underway

Next phase to replace MCAS graduation requirement underway

signature collecting
SIGN HERE: New Bedford educator Lori Silveira spent a few hours collecting signatures for the ballot question which would replace the MCAS graduation requirement.

Supporters of the ballot question to require that students demonstrate that they have met the state’s academic standards through coursework as a replacement for the MCAS graduation requirement have launched the second phase of signature gathering necessary to bring the issue to voters in November.

Massachusetts Teachers Association members have already started gathering signatures following a legislative committee’s recommendation earlier this month that lawmakers take no action on the issue.

While the ballot initiative moves forward, supporters of replacing the MCAS graduation requirement will remain open to resolving the issue in the Legislature.

The MTA is a chief backer of the ballot initiative, and the union’s board of directors has voted to dedicate millions of dollars for spending on the campaign. The union has also brought on the assistance of veteran strategists Tracey Lewis and Matt O’Neil to help guide the campaign.

signature collecting
These MTA activists, who were in canvassing in Easthampton, are working to secure the final 12,500 signatures needed to get the ballot question before voters in November.

Supporters will be collecting about 20,000 signatures to achieve the necessary goal of the roughly 12,500 certified signatures needed to have the question appear on the November ballot. During the first phase of the required signature gathering, supporters of the measure collected more than 135,000 names on petitions.

MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy said that her experience as a classroom teacher of more than 25 years made it clear to her that attaching high stakes to MCAS exams has backfired.

“The MCAS exams in their current form are a harmful presence in our schools,” she said. “Educators lose valuable time that could be better devoted to delivering a rich curriculum based on the state standards. The MCAS has a very narrow focus and does not even align with all that we expect students to learn. This rigid graduation requirement is an injustice to all those students whose ability and intelligence will never be adequately expressed through the results of a standardized test. The educators working directly with students can offer a far better assessment of academic achievement.”

The ballot question will not eliminate the use of MCAS as a diagnostic tool.

“We need to make sure all students are being educated to meet our high academic standards,” said MTA President Max Page. “Thirty years ago, educators with the MTA and our allies won a lawsuit – the McDuffy decision – helping to pass the Education Reform Act of 1993, which created the highest academic standards in the nation for every public school in Massachusetts. MCAS is not a standard itself, and it is not an effective way of measuring whether students are meeting the standards.”

Excellent educators and investments in public education are responsible for the success of Massachusetts public schools, Page said.

“Outstanding educators guided by high academic standards, not the MCAS, bring excellence to schools across the Commonwealth,” he said. “Letting educators do their jobs is the best way to ensure that every student is truly able to flourish in a setting with high expectations.”

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