As if Massachusetts school kids and their parents haven't got enough to worry about these days, state education officials are thinking about bringing back the MCAS exam.

The State House News Service reports that Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeff Riley is considering some form of take-home MCAS test in the spring. Riley is also said to be considering what to do about the MCAS exams that were scheduled for the coming winter. Federal education officials waived the MCAS requirements this year when the state suspended in-person learning in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SHNS reports Education Secretary James Peyser told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday, "The bottom line is, we need to redouble our efforts to reopen classrooms for in-person learning both now and as we prepare for the new year." Peyser reportedly told the board, "We must also stay the course on administering statewide assessments next spring to ensure we get accurate, timely, and actionable diagnostic data on student learning and learning loss during this unprecedented school year."

Riley reportedly told principals that testing will go forward in the spring and that local school districts should not anticipate a federal waiver at that time. A recent survey indicates that many parents are concerned that their children have fallen behind and are not keeping up to grade level due to time missed and remote learning.

The Baker Administration is said to be committed to the return of MCAS as a tool for gauging the pandemic's effect on student learning.

I suppose a comprehensive exam could help determine how much students have learned or not learned during this tumultuous year. But the results should be strictly guidance for educators and not be held against the students if they do not perform well.

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 and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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