Thursday, April 9, the Senate and House agreed on legislation to waive the MCAS test for students this spring. The Governor approved the legislation the following day.

Both state and federal law require the administration of competency examinations. Given the lengthy school closures forced by the current COVID-19 epidemic most agree that the examinations would be unfair and impractical to administer even if school opens up during the current school year. The federal government has already agreed to waive the required examinations and today the state legislature affirmed that the requirement should be waived:

Notwithstanding section 1I of chapter 69 of the General Laws or any other general or special law to the contrary, the requirement for a comprehensive diagnostic  assessment of individual students under said section 1I of said chapter 69 is waived for the  remainder of the 2019-2020 school year in order to address disruptions caused by the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, or the governor’s March 10, 2020  declaration of a state of emergency.

House 4616 as amended and enacted on April 9, 2020.

On Friday, Commissioner Riley issued this statement: “As a result of these federal and state actions and in light of the on-going health crisis, I am cancelling this spring’s regular administration of grade-level MCAS tests for students in grades 3-10.”

Every year there is a group of seniors who have not been able to pass all of the MCAS in the 10th or 11th grade. They are given opportunities to retake it as seniors. Prior to the COVID-19 emergency, these seniors had already had all their scheduled senior-year opportunities to retake the test. Many of them will have finally passed (March scores are pending) but there will be some students who have still not passed.

We gave the board of elementary and secondary education to waive the MCAS requirement for graduation for these students, even though the emergency has not directly affected their current testing schedule. They are losing the opportunity to further prepare for testing that might be available later in the year.

Notwithstanding clause (i) of the fourth paragraph of section 1D of chapter 69 of the General Laws or any other general or special law to the contrary, upon recommendation of the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, the board of elementary and secondary education may modify or waive the requirements of the competency determination for high school graduation, in order to address disruptions caused by the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, or the governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency; provided, that any grade 12 student that is unable to take or otherwise complete any assessment administered in the spring of 2020 as a requirement of the competency determination pursuant to said clause (i) of said fourth paragraph of said section 1D of said chapter 69 shall have the opportunity to take or retake the assessment during subsequent  offerings.

House 4616 as amended and enacted on April 9, 2020.

The bill also addresses several other matters affected by the COVID-19 emergency:

  • Pushing back school planning deadlines created in our recent education reform bill.
  • Granting the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education authority to approve interim budgets for regional schools if annual town approvals are delayed.
  • Pushing back the MBTA’s annual budget deadlines.
  • Streamlining applications for two major housing programs and reducing required in-person approval steps.

I happened to be doing the ministerial honors on the rostrum in the Senate today and it was a pleasure for me to put my signature on the parchment confirming that it had been enacted.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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