Old Rochester School Committee approves resolution in support of state legislation that would limit MCAS scope

Mar 7, 2024

MATTAPOISETT — The Old Rochester Regional School Committee approved a resolution supporting proposed state legislation that would limit the scope of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

The resolution, passed unanimously during a March 7 meeting, “urges” the Massachusetts legislature to pass Bill H.495, or the “Thrive Act,” a bill that, if passed, would remove the MCAS as a graduation requirement for Massachusetts high schools.

A version of this bill, S.246, is also going through the Massachusetts Senate. Both bills have been referred to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education to be heard during this year’s legislative session.

The MCAS has “has undermined the most important goals of public education,” the approved resolution said. The “punitive use” of the exams has “restricted curriculum and narrowed the focus of education in our public schools” and “has unjustly targeted communities with underfunded public schools for state takeovers that have failed to improve student performance by any measure,” according to the document signed by the school committee. 

“I want to make sure that [Old Rochester Regional School District] is on that list of school committees who are supporting this bill, who pushed for it and who are there kind of trying to push Massachusetts forward in getting over the MCAS and onwards,” Old Rochester Regional School Committee member Margaret McSweeny.

According to the language of the bill, the “Thrive Act” would retain the MCAS as a data collection tool for school districts across the Commonwealth and individual districts would be responsible for setting their own graduation standards.  

The “Thrive Act” would also allow struggling schools to appoint an 11-member board to address “comprehensive support and improvement using a formula developed by the department that complies with the criteria and processes in federal education law,” according to the bill.

This board would consist of the district’s superintendent, a school committee member, the local teacher’s union president, a school administrator, two teachers, a parent of a student at the school, a high school student or someone who brings appropriate grade-level knowledge, a social services educator, a member of a community organization and a subject matter expert.

Currently, under the 1993 education reform act that established the MCAS, struggling schools can be taken over by Massachusetts Education Commissioner, which would supersede the authority of a local school committee.

McSweeny said the bill moves in the right direction of taking “some of the power that it has over students trying to graduate and who may not do well on these tests for multiple reasons.”

“The amount of money that is spent towards MCAS and on MCAS could be spent better in our school districts throughout Massachusetts,” she said.

The House bill of the Thrive Act currently has 77 petitioners while the Senate bill has 31, according to Massachusetts legislature data. That includes Senator Marc R. Pacheco, who represents Marion.

“This does not remove accountability for school systems or the students,” Old Rochester Regional School Committee member Matthew Monteiro said. “All it does is remove one measure as the sole measure of accountability. There’s plenty of other accountability for students and school systems.”