Underperforming Schools May Get a Break With Union Petition Drive


The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment system, commonly abbreviated as MCAS, is Massachusetts's statewide standards-based assessment program developed in 1993 in response to the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of the same year. The Reform Act was spawned by public disgust at schools graduating students that were in some cases barely literate, a practice derisively termed 'social promotion.'

In mid-October, the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) achieved the milestone of 75,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative aimed at ending the controversial graduation requirement tied to the MCAS exam. And this week the union announced that the figure  has soared past 130,000 signatures. 

MTA President Max Page asserted that the surplus of signatures underscores a growing discontent with the current educational assessment system and "a collective call for change."

“With over 130,000 signatures, the public’s voice is loud and clear: They stand with educators against high-stakes testing,” said Page. “Our stance against an accountability system solely based on high-stakes testing resonates with the community, highlighting the need for change in how we evaluate student achievement. It’s time to move past a 30-year-old system that narrows learning and fails to address diverse student needs.”

Signature-gathering over the past few months was driven not just by educators but also by parents, community activists, small business owners, and other public education allies. Signatures are submitted to the local election officials for certification, as required by state election law.

“The powerful partnership between parents and educators fighting for the public schools our children deserve has grown substantially during the ballot initiative campaign,” said MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy. “It’s clear that the community supports this initiative of eliminating the tying of a one-time test score to the attainment of a diploma. The people are letting us know that all students deserve an education that is well-rounded and focused on students – not scores.”

If the signatures are validated and accepted by local officials and the Secretary of State, the measure will be on its way to appear on the 2024 ballot, though legislators, the attorney general, and hostile legal action could potentially still derail the process.

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