State officials vote to raise required minimum score for MCAS tests

Students in Massachusetts must score higher on the MCAS standarized tests in order to graduate from high school.
Updated: Aug. 15, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Students in Massachusetts must score higher on the MCAS standarized tests in order to graduate from high school. The decision comes after a key vote by the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Monday afternoon.

The incoming freshmen class of 2026 will be the first impacted, but many school officials are speaking out in opposition.

“Somehow in Massachusetts, we feel that we need to double down on a very blunt tool called the MCAS. It’s time to get rid of the high stakes nature of it and frankly, throw it out and start again,” said Max Page, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Page spoke out Monday against the move to raise standardized testing requirements for high school students in the Bay State.

“Often, when the commissioner brings something to a vote, he already knows he has the vote, so we’re prepared to fight this,” Page added.

The board voted in favor of a plan backed by Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to require higher MCAS scores for high school graduation beginning with the class of 2026, which are the incoming freshmen this fall.

Students would be required to earn a scaled score of at least a 486 on English language arts and math and at least a 470 on science, technology and engineering tests. The current thresholds are 472 for English and 486 for math.

Students must pass the MCAS to obtain a high school diploma. Page told Western Mass News that the timing makes no sense.

“They’re doing this in the face of the pandemic where there was great upheaval in the education system,” Page explained.

Page added that this could hurt communities like Holyoke, which is under receivership for low test scores.

“The MCAS has multiple destructive features. One is it’s mainly a measure of student and family and community wealth…There have been 52,000 students over the last 10 years who have been denied a diploma because they couldn’t pass one part of the standardized test in tenth grade and that hurts them for the rest of their lives,” Page noted.

However, it could also hurt educators.

“It narrows the curriculum. You teach and you emphasize what you’re going to test, especially when those tests have high stakes impacts,” Page added.

DESE board members debated similar points.

“How do we even claim competency when it’s determined by one single test?” said board member Mary Ann Stewart.

“There’s some really, really good analysis that been shown over a period of time that the standards that we’ve set matter in terms of future life outcomes, so this isn’t about defining someone as a single number on a page,” added board member Matt Hills.

The new requirements will be in place for the classes of 2026 through 2030. Officials will review the standards again after that.