In The People's Blog

A public hearing has just been announced for An Act responding to the COVID-19 emergency by instituting a moratorium of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

Hearing details:

The Education Committee will accept testimony via email only until Monday, August 10 at 5:00 p.m.

Please email testimony to House Chair Alice Peisch at Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov  and Senate Chair Jason Lewis at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov.

Please use the subject line: Education Committee Testimony: S.2814.

When submitting, please provide the Committee with your name, organization (if applicable), and phone number.

Please feel free to CC Jo.Comerford@masenate.gov on your testimony or email me with any questions.

This is timely and needed legislation:

Returning to learning in the fall, in whatever form, will require complex planning, safety precautions, and possibly dramatic changes to pedagogy and curricula. As our students and teachers do the tireless work of learning recovery and re-building community engagement and trust, pressure-filled high-stakes testing should be the very last thing on their minds.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education wisely suspended MCAS requirements for Spring 2020, but education experts agree that the impact of COVID-19 will be experienced far into the future.

This bill has two main aims:

  1. Imposes a 4-year moratorium on the administration of the MCAS test and on using any standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about students, educators, schools, and districts. The bill also mandates that DESE request the necessary federal waiver.
  2. Establishes a statewide commission and local task forces to pilot alternative approaches and reassess the state’s approach to goal setting and evaluation.

Want more information to inform your testimony? Check out this resource from Citizens for Public Schools: https://www.citizensforpublicschools.org/mcas-is-the-wrong-answer/.

A summary of the bill is below: 

Section 1. Inserts the following new sections into Section 37, Chapter 69 of the General Laws:

Section 37(a). Places a four-year moratorium on the MCAS graduation requirement, as established in subsection (i) of section one D of chapter 69. The moratorium, including in all subsequent sections below, would be in effect for the academic years from 2020-2021 through 2023-2024.

Section 37(b). Places a four-year moratorium on the use of MCAS results in educator evaluations, including formative evaluation, formative assessment, or summative evaluation.

Section 37(c). Places a four-year moratorium on the use of MCAS results in school and school district accountability measures, as established in section 1J or section 1K of chapter 69.

Section 2. Requires the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to request a four-year waiver from the U.S. Department of Education of federal student assessment requirements. This would allow the state to suspend administration of the MCAS.

Section 3(a). Establishes a Special Commission to reassess the state’s approach to school and district performance, including school district goals, academic indicators, evaluation and testing. The legislation requires the Commission to consider potential performance indicators such as social, emotional and physical health, the arts and creative expression, and communication and social skills in addition to traditional academic indicators. The commission includes six members of the legislature, including the Education Chairs (who chair the Commission) and Speaker and Senate President (or their designees), as well as representatives of various education-related organizations. DESE will provide administrative support for the commission. The Commission must file its final report with recommended legislation no later than December 31, 2022.

Section 3(b). Creates a grant program enabling local school district task forces to develop alternative school and district models for goal setting, student assessment and evaluation.  The task forces will submit findings, reports and recommendations to the commission. The grant program will be funded from the 21st Century Education Trust Fund established in the Student Opportunity Act, with grants limited to no more than $15,000 per district.

Section 3(c). The local school district assessment task forces shall be set up in up to  25 school districts, with the requirement that grants be distributed throughout the state, including regional school districts, economically-disadvantaged districts, and districts with a high proportion of English-language learners. The task forces will include the school committee, local educators union, parents, educators and staff, and community members.

Section 3(d) Requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to submit progress reports to the Commission.

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