FRAMINGHAM – State Representatives Carmine Gentile, Jack Patrick Lewis, and Maria Robinson joined several of their House colleagues in co-sponsoring legislation that requests a 3-year moratorium on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test and on using any standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about students, educators, schools, and districts.
An Act concerning a moratorium on the MCAS in response to the Covid-19 Emergency aims to alleviate some of the burden placed on schools by the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes the implementation of social distancing measures in classrooms and hallways in the case of a return
to school this fall.
“Our students need to be given the space to learn, and high stakes testing should be off the table as we determine what classrooms will look like for the next school year,” said Rep. Robinson (D-Framingham).
The abrupt end to the 2020 school year resulted in significant changes for schools and students, with quick adjustments to remote learning, difficulties with AP tests, and uncertainty regarding meals, and many outstanding questions still remain as schools begin preparations for a a safe
return to the classroom in the fall.
“Putting a moratorium on MCAS will allow our teachers and students to focus on social-emotional learning and recovering from the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Rep. Robinson.
Lead sponsor of the legislation, Representative James K. Hawkins (Attleboro) noted, “It’s crazy to make schools plan for MCAS with all the uncertainty around the pandemic, smaller classsizes, crowded buses, cafeterias, remote learning, and the problems this spring with AP tests.”
Provisions of the legislation that would place a moratorium on MCAS and standardized testing for the 2020-2023 school years include:
* Removal of dependency upon MCAS scores for student graduation or educator performance evaluation;
● Requirement that the commissioner of elementary and secondary education request statewide requirements dependent on standardized testing be waived for 2020-2023;
● Institution of a commission focused on school and district data collection and evaluation throughout the moratorium with the intent of providing recommendations for the General Laws pertaining to education;
● Prompt initiation of a grant program to support up to 25 districts or consortia of districts task forces aimed at developing and piloting district and school diagnostic testing and evaluation models during the moratorium.
“The grant program included in this bill is an important way to give parents, students, and educators a voice in determining the future of their local schools,” said Rep. Lewis (D-Framingham), who also represents Ashland.
“The moratorium shifts the educational lens in order to make locally informed decisions about education in the long term” he said.
Under the bill, task forces formed in the grant program should consist of education administrators representing districts and up to nine community members, parents, school staff, and students.
“Students, parents, and teachers felt that we were spending way too much time on testing before the COVID-19 emergency began,” said Rep. Gentile (D-Sudbury) “Now, with all the added stress and expense that the pandemic has wrought in every school district, it’s finally time to save the expense and stress of MCAS and other high-stakes testing that no one needs to
Rep. Hawkins noted the Governor’s budget allocates up to $33 million to
corporate providers of MCAS tests.
“This money could save a whole lot of pink slips or go to the low-income communities and communities of color who have suffered so disproportionately during the pandemic.”
Representatives Gentile, Lewis, and Robinson are also co-sponsors of another recently filed MCAS bill, SD2986, An Act responding to the COVID-19 emergency by instituting a moratorium of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.
This similar bill, filed by Senator Jo Comerford (Northampton) and supported by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, establishes a four-year moratorium on MCAS tests and prevents the use of any standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about students, teachers, schools, and districts.
“I am committed to supporting a multi-pronged approach,” Rep. Lewis added. “Both bills currently before us have strong provisions that are in the best interest of students, educators, and school districts. We need to address the fundamental problems with the MCAS in both the short and long term.”