More than 20 years after its inception, it is time to overhaul the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System – or MCAS – exam. Education advocates and teachers unions have railed against the MCAS exam, the roots of which date back to the 1993 education reform legislation, saying it has forced teachers to teach to the test, since the successful passage of the controversial exam is a requirement for high school graduation.

The MCAS exam has been controversial in that not only does it gauge what the student has learned, but it is an indicator of how well the subject matter is taught by classroom teachers. The MCAS exam has been used to judge the success and failures of local schools and school districts. Perhaps too much is riding on the MCAS test results and it's time to move in a new direction.

As usual, the Massachusetts Teacher's Association is off the rails in its opposition to MCAS. MTA President Merrie Najimy suggests, "The influence of the MCAS has allowed white supremacy to flourish in public schools, effectively alienating students who have diverse backgrounds and differentiated learning styles." This woman needs help.

The Massachusetts Legislature's Education Committee heard testimony on Monday on two bills that would discontinue MCAS as a graduation requirement. The legislation, filed by Sen. Jo Comerford and Rep. James Hawkins, offers what Comerford calls "multiple pathways" for high school graduation that would not include passing a standardized test.

The State House News Service reports, "The legislation would also pilot new ways of measuring district and teacher performance less reliant on MCAS scores and more influenced by community input in partnership with the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment."

We must not waiver in our determination to ensure that all Massachusetts students receive a quality education as promised and that they, the school districts, and the teachers are held accountable. Perhaps it's also time to re-examine MCAS and explore new ways to make that happen while broadening education offerings beyond the constraints of the MCAS exam.

Change is good. I'm all ears.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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