LEXINGTON - There is a growing movement to remove one of the state's requirements to receive a high school diploma and it all started with a mother and her teenage son.
Shelley Scruggs, and her 15-year-old son, Shawn, live in Lexington. Shawn is about to start his sophomore year at Minute Man Vocational School which means he will be tasked with taking, and passing, the MCAS.
"As he has been going through the school system, we've had this thing hanging over our head," said Scruggs. "My son is very good with his hands. He's not good at test taking. A lot of kids aren't."
Shawn wants to be a plumber and his classes at Minute Man are geared toward that trade. Scruggs, a Princeton graduate and current MIT employee, said she believes the MCAS does not account for the type of student her son has become.
"Passing grades, enough class credits and good attendance. When I went to high school, when most went to high school 20 years ago, that was all you needed," Scruggs said.
The MCAS was introduced in 1993. Ten years later, it became a graduation requirement for high school students. Scruggs looked into adding a ballot question that would put the decision to voters in the 2024 general election. It didn't take long for leaders at the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) to reach out to her. They had been working on something similar. The MTA has 117,000 members and made clear, thewould keep the MCAS, but remove the graduation requirement that comes with it.
"It is federal law to have annual testing," said Max Page with the MTA. "The MCAS will be there and maybe it will be useful as a diagnostic tool. What we are proposing on the ballot initiative is to remove this high stake graduation requirement in order to get a diploma. Since it is going to be there, we hope that there will be some improvements to it. Many educators say even if there is some value to it, I get the scores back the next year. The students have already moved on."
Not everyone is giving this idea a passing grade. Ed Lambert is with the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and he pointed to the state of education in Massachusetts before the MCAS was implemented as his reason for opposing the change.
"If you go back to 1993, districts came up with their own standards, they did their own assessments and particularly in poorer communities what we found was that we were kind of checking off the box, we didn't have high expectations," said Lambert. "The workforce issues and the challenges that we have really demand that this is not a time when we should be lowering the expectations of our schools. We need to have high expectations and high standards, and this is even a more important time to make sure that we keep them."
The Attorney General will now look at the proposal for a ballot question. If approved, the MTA will be tasked with gathering 75,000 signatures of support before it is eligible to be placed on the ballot in 2024.
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