Mom Files Ballot Petition in Hopes Voters Will End MCAS Test Graduation Requirement

Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Superintendent Margaret Marotta in 2018 praised John C. Tilton School students for MCAS achievement. (WHAV News photograph)

Sam Drysdale, State House News Service

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A mom has officially filed a petition to put on the statewide ballot the question of whether students should be required to pass a standardized test in order to graduate, but it wasn’t the state’s large teacher’s union, which has been publicly considering whether to bring the question to voters.

Shelly Scruggs, a Lexington resident and mother to a 15-year-old boy, told State House News Service Thursday she filed the petition on behalf of her son.

He’s a rising senior at Minuteman Vocational High School and wants to be a plumber, but Scruggs said he has ADHD and “isn’t a great test taker.”

“But he works hard,” Scruggs said. “And he can do all this hard work, can get really good grades in class, go to school every day and be set up to do a great job at what he wants to do—and still not get a diploma. I just thought that’s criminal.”

The Massachusetts Teachers Association has long opposed the state law that ties a student’s graduation to whether they pass the 10th grade Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam, and earlier this month polled residents on removing the requirement.

Out of 800 voters asked, 73% said they would support eliminating the MCAS graduation requirement, according to the poll conducted by Echo Cove Research between June 2 and June 11.

Though Scruggs beat the union to the punch with her petition, the MTA is “still considering” filing with the attorney general’s office to put the question on the ballot. A union spokesperson said, “We should know by early next week if we’re moving forward with it.”

But whether or not the teachers put forward their own ballot proposal, Scruggs said she is hopeful the question will get to voters.

Once a petition has been filed, the attorney general’s office determines whether it is ballot-eligible under the constitution. If it is found to be legally sound, petitioners must collect 74,574 signatures by Nov. 22, then, dependent on legislative action, an additional 12,429 signatures by June 19, 2024, according to the attorney general’s office.

The MCAS exams were created in a 1993 education reform law aimed at improving accountability and school performance. The first tests were given in 1998, and high school students have been required to pass the tests to graduate since 2003.

Massachusetts is one of only eight states that still ties a standardized test to a high school graduation requirement, according to the MTA.

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