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The “Thrive Act” Could Change What MCAS Means for Students

Stock image.
Stock image.

Every student in Massachusetts is stressed and tired of graduation requirements. The majority of students are increasingly nervous about passing the MCAS, knowing it’s a graduation requirement. But, they are going to change this. Teachers in Massachusetts want to change this regulation and use it for different purposes, as well as making a change to help students. But it’s hard knowing that there is going to be a big fight to end this. Massachusetts has a responsibility to support schools and districts to improve educational experiences for students. However, the state uses two interconnected strategies: state takeovers of schools and districts and standardized testing. Both are used in high stakes ways that do the opposite of the intended purpose. High-stakes standardized testing harms all students. For some students, it can also disrupt their future lives. State takeovers can disrupt whole communities’ educational programming and school-to-community connections. Both practices are mandated or prompted by federal law. They are political strategies, not educational help.

Many teachers and students have opinions about this topic, so I went around asking opinions based on the MCAS requirements. Some disagree with the requirements because they make students overwhelmed and lack on their current studies. On the other hand, some think it helps students progress and work hard. Will it change or will it not? How does it affect us? I guess we’ll find out. 

One of the teachers from South High I spoke with was Mrs. Mooshian. I asked her some questions based on the MCAS. This is what she said: 

 “[The] Massachusetts Teachers Association, the union that oversees all the teachers statewide, is pushing for a ballot question in November to have the public determine whether or not MCAS should continue as a graduation requirement for Massachusetts students.  Massachusetts is one of only eight states that require statewide assessments as a graduation requirement.  Currently, we are in the process of gathering signatures from registered voters in Massachusetts to push this question back to the state house in Boston to be considered for the ballot in November, 2024.”

What are the other ways will they use MCAS when they approve of taking MCAS down as a graduation requirement?

“If the ballot question is approved and passes in November, the MCAS tests will not go away.  They will still be used to determine school success rates, academic excellence, address academic equity issues and improve curriculum delivery for the districts and their teachers.  MCAS will also be used to help support placement of students into the appropriate programming/courses in order to make sure that students are getting access to a full service education.” 

Do you think it will help students?

“This will help students in many ways.  First, it will help students to lessen the stress and anxiety that is associated with passing high stakes testing.  With the current state of mental health among teens, this should help to ease students’ concerns and lessen their mental health concerns.  It will also help students to be placed more appropriately in their classes to support their learning abilities and address those issues with more transparency.”

Are there other states that have this requirement? 

“All states have some form of statewide testing.  The only states that use their statewide testing as a graduation requirement are Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Virginia, and Wyoming.” 

Do you think this will be a big accomplishment in Massachusetts?

“This would be a huge accomplishment for the state of Massachusetts.”

I hope that this act will be accepted and will make a change for all students. I also hope this change will make student life better and increase the  possibility for all students to graduate. 

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