Don’t Eliminate MCAS Graduation Requirement, Former Governor Jane Swift Says

Printed from:

At least one former governor opposes a potential ballot initiative that would eliminate passing the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests as a graduation requirement in Massachusetts public schools.

While the Massachusetts Teachers Association is working on a ballot initiative that would make this change, former Governor Jane Swift, a moderate Republican, thinks doing so would hurt education, not help it. 

“While there are innovative improvements to testing that the Commonwealth should consider, such as utilizing more formative assessments to target necessary and personalized interventions for students sooner in their learning journey, wholesale elimination of any accountability will exacerbate the already unacceptable gaps in student achievement between students,” Swift told NewBostonPost in an email message.

Swift served as a Massachusetts state senator from North Adams from 1991 to 1997; as the state’s secretary of consumer affairs from 1997 to 1998 during Governor Paul Cellucci’s administration; as lieutenant governor under Cellucci from 1999 to 2001; and then, after Cellucci resigned, as governor from April 2001 to January 2003.

Swift has long been a supporter of the MCAS and played a significant role in its creation.

Swift was on the education committee during her time in the state Senate and was one of six members of a conference committee that etched out the Education Reform Act of 1993, signed into law by then-Governor Bill Weld.

Notable provisions of the bill increased state funding for public schools, allowed for the creation of charter schools, and called for the creation of a statewide standardized test that would serve as a graduation requirement; the latter provision became the MCAS.

Supporters of MCAS say it helps determine if students are learning basic academic skills they’ll need later in life and if teachers are connecting with them. They say the graduation requirement is essential, because it ensures that teachers and students take the tests seriously.

Opponents of MCAS say it puts too much pressure on students who struggle and that it forces teachers to teach to the test instead of presenting subject matter in a freer way.

Among the opponents are teachers unions, including the state’s largest, the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

If the Massachusetts Teachers Association and its supporters get their way, school districts would have to “certify that students have mastered the skills, competencies, and knowledge required by the state standards,” according to a press release from the union.

The teachers union argues that standardized tests are bad for minority students, immigrants, and students with learning disabilities.

“The MTA has been trying for years to make changes to the high-stakes testing system causing harm in preK-12 public schools, especially among BIPOC and immigrant students and those with learning disabilities,” the union said in its written statement. “Given the urgency on the part of educators and parents to begin overhauling the high-stakes aspects of the MCAS regimen, the MTA is eager to further the process at the ballot box.”

“BIPOC” stands for black, indigenous, and people of color.

Petitioners have to collect at least 74,574 signatures from registered Massachusetts voters to get their initiative on the ballot. They can start collecting signatures by mid-September and have until 14 days before the first Wednesday in December (November 22 in this case) to file those signatures with local elections officials. Then, they must file the signatures certified by local election officials with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office by the first Wednesday of December (which is December 6 this year). There is one caveat, however:  no more than one-quarter of these certified signatures can come from any one county in the state.

If supporters meet the threshold, the Massachusetts Legislature would formally receive a proposal for the designed legislation in January 2024.

If the state Legislature doesn’t pass the measure before the first Wednesday in May 2024, then the process would continue. At that point, supporters must collect at least 12,429 more signatures from unique Massachusetts voters and file them with local election officials 14 days before the first Wednesday in July 2024 (which is June 19, 2024). Then, they must file certified signatures with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office by the first Wednesday in July 2024 (which is June 26, 2024). The rule limiting signatures from any one county to one-quarter of the total applies at this stage, as well.

If supporters can do all of that, then the measure will make the ballot in the next statewide general election — in this case the November 2024 ballot.

A press spokesman for the Massachusetts Teachers Association could not be reached for comment on Monday or Tuesday this week.


New to NewBostonPost? Conservative media is hard to find in Massachusetts. But you’ve found it. Now dip your toe in the water for two bucks — $2 for two months. And join the real revolution.