This Year’s High School Juniors Able to Skip MCAS Without Graduation Consequences

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

It’s official.

This year’s high school junior class doesn’t need to take or pass MCAS tests to graduate, under a change approved this week by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

As WHAV reported at the beginning of the month, Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley recommended the temporary change. It is one of a series of pandemic-influenced shifts the state has made within its standardized testing program since COVID-19 first shuttered school buildings last spring.

Students are typically required to pass 10th grade English and math MCAS exams in order demonstrate competency in the two subjects and graduate. Last year’s 10th graders, the class of 2022, didn’t take those tests last spring because of a federal waiver and legislative approval to cancel the spring 2020 MCAS during the early days of remote learning.

Juniors will still be able to take the test in the spring and next fall to pursue scholarship opportunities, but the board voted to modify graduation requirements for the class of 2022 to allow those students to demonstrate competency in math and English by completing a relevant course instead of earning a passing MCAS score.

The change, which board member Matt Hills described as a “very narrow, tailored approach” affecting one class and one component of the exams, cleared the board unanimously.

The pandemic’s disruptions to schooling have renewed debates about the role of standardized testing, with teachers unions and some lawmakers calling for the MCAS to be canceled this year, and the Baker administration describing the exams as a key tool for gauging where students may have fallen behind while learning remotely.

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