After over a year of pandemic-era restricted learning conditions that made it virtually impossible for educators to follow an appropriate lesson plan, Massachusetts public school students were nevertheless subjected to sitting for the MCAS exam in 2021. To the surprise of no one, scores dipped across the Commonwealth.

The MCAS's more than two-decade reign over public education has been met with much controversy. Passing the exam has been a graduation requirement for public school students, and educators almost unanimously rebuke it. Educators generally maintain that the MCAS not only restricts their lesson-planning to teaching for the test instead of focusing on more fulfilling educational outcomes, but it also puts a great deal of undue stress on students to prepare for and pass the test.

Most crucially, the MCAS systematically limits the opportunities of students with economic disadvantages and learning differences. Over 50,000 students have been precluded from graduating because they did not meet the MCAS requirements; two-thirds of those students have disabilities.

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This an issue that is personally close to me. My brother, who is living with autism, was able to complete the required amount of class credits to graduate from Fairhaven High School. However, because sitting for the MCAS didn't mesh with his educational strengths, he was not able to receive his diploma. This significantly limited his postsecondary educational opportunities, as it does for many students like him who were excluded from receiving the diploma they had rightfully earned.

That's why the legislation filed State Rep. Jim Hawkins (D-Attleboro) and Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton)  is so important if we want to move toward more equitable educational outcomes. Hawkins, a former educator before being elected to serve on Beacon Hill, recognizes that standardized testing is an important facet of public education, but wants to get rid of the dogmatic adherence to standardized testing that the MCAS demands.

Hawkins' bill would not only remove the MCAS as a graduation requirement, but it would give school districts an opportunity to create their own models for demonstrating student success in the required subjects, allow for modified assessments for students with special needs, and create a grant funding program to support these initiatives that would be overseen by the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment.

Rep. Hawkins joined me on-air recently to discuss the obstacles in education created by the MCAS and how doing-away with the exam and adopting the reforms in his legislation will better serve the Commonwealth. You can listen to the full conversation here:

Marcus Ferro is the host of The Marcus Ferro Show airing Saturdays on 1420 WBSM from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Contact him at marcusferrolaw@gmail.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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