District, State Leaders Slam Plan to Require 10th Grade MCAS

The MCAS test has been at the back of the line since the pandemic forced schools into different modes of learning, but the state has brought the 10th grade MCAS test front and center with the news it will require the test for all 10th graders this year – whether their district is remote or not.

Immediately, many urban districts like Everett that have been remote since last March have decried the decision, noting that it’s not the fair thing to do given that the 10th grade test is required for graduation from high school.

The test was waived last spring, and this year it will be waived for grades 3-8, but not 10th grade. The decision was announced late last week by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said it was simply “ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous,” he said. “There is a tremendous amount of stress right now on top of everything else for our families and teachers. Honestly it’s not fair to require that of our kids right now. I’ve been an adversary against the MCAS before COVID as well. Any reasonable person could come to the conclusion this isn’t the right way to go about things.”

Supt. Priya Tahiliani said she feels it could easily be delayed, and doesn’t even understand how such a closely-monitored test in a normal year will be given to remote students sitting at home.

“These 10th graders will be 11th graders next year and can do it then,” she said. “It’s a graduation requirement two years from now. We have time and should take time.”

She said the district is still using diagnostic testing online within their classrooms and grade levels, in Everett’s case they use iReady. Those tests, she said, could be a good gauge this year if the state really wants to monitor student progress during the pandemic.

Additionally, she said administering the MCAS costs as much as $30 million per year, and that’s money she said could be put towards getting urban districts and high-risk communities back in the classroom.

“That’s money that could be used differently this year,” she said.

Meanwhile, School Committeeman Marcony Almeida Barros, at the Jan. 4 School Committee meeting, called on the state to pause the requirement.

“We are living in a pandemic,” he said. “When you add to that having to prepare students for MCAS – come on, let’s face reality. At lease we as a School Committee should send a message and tell them we shouldn’t do that now.”

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