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Massachusetts officials consider raising test scores required to graduate from high school


Starting with this year's eighth graders, students would need to earn higher scores on their Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests to graduate from high school, under regulations set for a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education vote in June.

The board voted Tuesday to open a public comment period on the changes, following a February discussion where members of an advisory group helping Education Commissioner Jeff Riley develop his recommendation said they felt raising the passing standard was an important move.

In a memo to the board, Riley said research shows "MCAS scores predict later outcomes in education and earnings" and "only 11% students in the class of 2011 who scored at the current passing standard in mathematics went on to enroll in a four-year college in Massachusetts, and only 5% graduated from a four-year college within seven years."

Under the proposal, students in the classes of 2026 to 2029 would be required to earn a scaled score of 486 on the English and math exams or score a 470 and complete an educational proficiency plan. The threshold would be set at 470 for science and technology/engineering tests.

Currently, the score threshold for English is 472, or 455 with an educational proficiency plan, and for math it is 486 or 469 with an educational proficiency plan. The regulatory amendments also propose some changes around educational proficiency plans.

Education Secretary James Peyser said he thinks the proposal "strikes the right balance" between realigning standards and ensuring districts provide transparency and support to students who are not meeting those standards.

Advocacy group Citizens for Public Schools said MCAS tests have not closed achievement gaps and that raising the passing standard would hurt populations least likely to pass the exam, including English learners and students with disabilities.

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