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MCAS: Stumbling block or essential measure?

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted in August 2022 on a controversial proposal to raise the MCAS scores needed for students to graduate high school. Charter school supporters in the audience are pictured.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Graduation requirement leaves collateral damage

Here are four reasons why we need to remove the onerous MCAS graduation requirement (“No, the MCAS exam isn’t holding kids back,” Editorial, Sept. 24):

In a recent poll commissioned by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, 73 percent of voters backed the elimination of the requirement if local districts certify that students demonstrate a mastery of the skills and knowledge required by state standards. One reason for this support is that the graduation requirement results in too much teaching to the test and narrowing of the curriculum.

In addition, as your editorial notes, the state estimates that about 700 high school seniors a year complete their courses of study but do not pass the MCAS. Over 20 years of MCAS as a graduation requirement, that would be about 14,000 students, disproportionately from historically marginalized groups, who will have lower lifetime earnings than graduates. This is unacceptable collateral damage.


Between 2019 and 2022, when the MCAS graduation requirement was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the graduation rate rose between 4 and 8 points for Black, Latinx, low-income, and English learner students and students with disabilities, while it rose a half-percent for white students.

Finally, over the past 15 years, the state’s gaps by race, income, and disability have remained wide while the gap for English learners has increased substantially.

MCAS is not achieving its original intent of closing achievement gaps by race, income, disability, and language.

Dan French

Board president

Citizens for Public Schools


Test’s demands weigh on students, take up valuable time

You say the MCAS exam isn’t holding kids back. Really?

Many high school teachers believe that standardized testing is an important indicator of student progress and are not opposed to the MCAS per se. What is problematic is the time it takes from teaching critical, grade-level concepts.

Beginning after February vacation, it’s time to start preparing students for what we know will take approximately three weeks of valuable instructional time. There are added makeup days for any absences.


Add the weeks of time an administrator (often an assistant principal) must use for preparation, monitoring, tracking attendance, and reporting the results, all while doing their assigned job.

The ESL population I taught rarely passed on the first or second attempt. By senior year, they must pass the English, math, and science MCAS to receive a diploma. I’ve known many who gave up, but a few motivated kids have come back after graduation for a fourth attempt, which they usually pass.

However, it’s not just the test that’s the issue. It’s the time constraint.

Janet Dreger


The writer retired from public school teaching in 2019.

Teachers union seems bent on dragging us away from accountability

In its quest to end MCAS testing, the Massachusetts Teachers Association seems hellbent on dragging us back to an era where the achievement gap was unrecognized and ignored. MCAS testing provides an independent assessment of students that shows what they have learned compared with their peers, not whether their teachers like them.

Lucia Dolan


We need this tool to measure students’ progress, teachers’ impact

I was glad to see your editorial on retaining the MCAS graduation requirement. The instrument is a solid tool to measure the academic prowess of our children in public schools.

In the face of a ballot question aimed at eliminating the requirement, I urge parents to lobby in favor of keeping MCAS as a requirement for graduation. The exam not only shows how well students are retaining what they learn in the classroom, but equally important, it shows how hard teachers are working for students.


We as taxpayers want our teachers to strive to get the most from children in the classroom. It strikes me that the teachers union’s opposition to MCAS is more about workload.

Public school students were out of the school setting for more than a year during the COVID-19 pandemic, learning remotely, and they suffered setbacks.

We need high-achieving students, and teachers are the professionals who are there to see that that happens.

Joel D’Errico