High Standards, Not High Stakes

The Thrive Act would replace the MCAS-based high school graduation requirement, assure that local communities retain control of local school systems, and establish a community-led response when improvements are needed.

Join the effort to replace the MCAS grad requirement

signature collecting
SIGN HERE: New Bedford educator Lori Silveira is among the MTA members canvassing for signatures in support of a ballot question that would replace the MCAS graduation requirement.
GET INVOLVED: Help collect signatures to get the MCAS ballot question before voters

The time is now to stand together and replace the MCAS as a high school graduation requirement.

MTA educators and our allies collected 101,511 certified signatures to advance this initiative. The last step to get this on the ballot in November is to collect an additional 20,000 signatures in May.

For more info, sign up here or email grassroots@massteacher.org


Next phase to replace MCAS graduation requirement underway

Supporters of the ballot question to require that students demonstrate that they have met the state’s academic standards through coursework as a replacement for the MCAS graduation requirement have launched the second phase of signature gathering necessary to bring the issue to voters in November.

Massachusetts Teachers Association members have already started gathering signatures following a legislative committee’s recommendation earlier this month that lawmakers take no action on the issue.

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An Outlier in High-Stakes Testing

Massachusetts is one of the few states in the country to require a high school graduation test
U.S. map

Massachusetts likes to brag that it has an exceptional national reputation for public education, but in one aspect, it’s a straggling outlier. The state requires a high school graduation test for a diploma, one of just eight that continue to do so.

Massachusetts, which administers the MCAS-based graduation test in the 10th grade, is joined by Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

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This story appeared in the fall edition of MTA Today.

Reaching the 2024 Ballot

How Do We Get There?
Getting on the ballot

All ballot initiatives follow a specific process in Massachusetts. The MTA has already cleared several steps in getting a ballot question before voters to end the high school graduation requirement of the MCAS, but we have several more to go.

What does the initiative petition say?

The proposed law would eliminate the requirement that a student pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests (or other statewide or district-wide assessments) in mathematics, science and technology, and English in order to receive a high school diploma. Instead, in order for a student to receive a high school diploma, the proposed law would require the student to complete coursework certified by the student’s district as demonstrating mastery of the competencies contained in the state academic standards in mathematics, science and technology, and English, as well as any additional areas determined by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Read more in MTA Today

Educators have long called for an end to the punishing high-stakes testing regime

High-stakes testing and the associated accountability measures have undermined our public education system for far too long.

Massachusetts is only one of eight states in the country that ties its standardized test to graduation. The change in attitudes about exit exams is likely related to research indicating that exit exams don't increase academic achievement.

The current testing system reduces time to teach, narrows the curriculum, adds stress and reduces creativity and misuses education dollars. The punitive aspects of the MCAS regime are especially detrimental to students with Individualized Education Plans, students learning English as a second language, students of color and and students from groups that have been historically marginalized from an equitable and supportive education.

Legislation to eliminate the high-stakes components of the MCAS tests

An Act Empowering Students and Schools to Thrive, better known as the Thrive Act, would replace the MCAS graduation requirement with one that allows students’ districts to certify that they have satisfactorily completed coursework showing mastery of the skills, competencies and knowledge required by the state standards.

Learn More about the Thrive AcT

Take Action to End High-Stakes Testing

Legislative Priorities announcement on Dec. 8 2022

MCAS incentivize schools to 'teach to the test, narrow the curriculum'

When MTA member Jack Schneider spoke on the impact of the MCAS exams at a State House press conference in December 2022, he teared up at the emotional toll the standardized test has had on his own child.

The high-stakes nature of the test, said Schneider, a professor of education at UMass Lowell who studies the impact of MCAS and school rankings, "incentivizes schools to game the system, to do things like teach to the test and narrow the curriculum."

The high-stakes test has been a hot-button issue for students and educators since the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, which created the MCAS accountability system.


Urge your legislators to pass the Thrive Act

Take Action to Pass the Thrive Act

The Thrive Act's comprehensive approach centers student learning by:

  • Replacing the MCAS as a high school graduation requirement
  • Ending the undemocratic state takeover system
  • Establishing a commission to give our communities a voice in building a better assessment and accountability system

Please email your legislators right away and urge them to heed the call of their constituents and prioritize the passage of the Thrive Act this legislative session.

take action


“This is part of a broken system that has been going on far too long.”

MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy
Deeper Dive
Brief History of Education Reform & MCAS
The MCAS tests came to our schools as a result of 1993 state education reform act.  
Read more
Lessons Learned
Making major decisions based on standardized tests has failed.
MCAS Tests Are Not Standards
They are limited assessments that address only a small portion of the state standards.
Learn more