Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

MA Graduation Requirements and Related Guidance

I. Graduation Requirement

A. Background Information

The Massachusetts Education Reform Law of 1993, state law, G.L. c. 69, § 1D, requires that all students who are seeking to earn a high school diploma, including students educated at public expense in educational collaboratives and approved and unapproved private special education schools within and outside the state, must meet the Competency Determination (CD) standard, in addition to meeting all local graduation requirements.

B. Competency Determination Requirements

1. CD Requirements

Because of the transition to the next-generation MCAS tests, there are currently different requirements, depending on the student's original class.

For the classes of 2020 and earlier:

Students must earn a scaled score of at least 240 on the grade 10 MCAS ELA and Mathematics tests or meet the following requirements:

  • Earn a scaled score between 220 and 238 on these tests or earn a score of Needs Improvement on a competency portfolio, and
  • fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP). (See section 2 below for more information on the EPP.)

In addition, students must earn a scaled score of at least 220 on one of the high school MCAS Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) tests: Biology, Chemistry, Introductory Physics, or Technology/Engineering, or a score of Needs Improvement on a competency portfolio in one of these STE disciplines. (On July 2, 2012, an exception to the STE graduation requirement expired for students who were originally in the class of 2009 or an earlier class and meet certain criteria.)

For the classes of 2021 and 2022:

Students must earn the next-generation MCAS equivalent of a scaled score of at least 240 on the grade 10 MCAS ELA and Mathematics tests or meet the following requirements:

  • Earn the next-generation MCAS equivalent of a scaled score between 220 and 238 on these tests or earn the next-generation MCAS equivalent of a score of Needs Improvement on a competency portfolio, and
  • fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP). (See section 2 below for more information on the EPP.)

In addition, students must earn a scaled score of at least 220 on one of the high school MCAS Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) tests: Biology, Chemistry, Introductory Physics, or Technology/Engineering, or a score of Needs Improvement on a competency portfolio in one of these STE disciplines.

The next-generation equivalent is an interim passing standard that defines a similar level of achievement on the next-generation tests to the current required standard on the legacy tests: 240 (Proficient), or 220 (Needs Improvement). For more information, refer to Amendments to Regulations on MCAS and Competency Determination, 603 CMR 30.00, for Transition to New Standard.

2. Educational Proficiency Plans (EPP)

An EPP must be developed for any student who does not meet or exceed the Proficient level (a minimum scaled score of 240) or next-generation equivalent on the grade 10 ELA and/or Mathematics tests.

Each EPP includes, at a minimum:

  • a review of the student's strengths and weaknesses, based on MCAS and other assessment results, coursework, grades, and teacher input;
  • the courses the student will be required to take and successfully complete in grades 11 and 12; and
  • a description of the assessments the school will administer on a regular basis to determine whether the student is moving toward Proficiency.

C. Competency Determination Requirements for Students in Active Military Families

With the enactment of Chapter 108 of the Acts of 2012, An Act Relative to Veterans' Access, Livelihood, Opportunity, and Resources, also known as the VALOR Act, Massachusetts joined the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. In accordance with the VALOR Act, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) is committed to facilitating the on-time graduation of high school students in military families by providing alternatives to allow these students to earn a high school Competency Determination (CD) in English language arts, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering.

View the CD requirements for students in active military families Download Word Document.

D. Graduation Requirements for Displaced Puerto Rico Students

View the graduation requirements for displaced Puerto Rico high school students.

E. Graduation Requirements for Students Receiving Special Education Services

Massachusetts authorizes one regular high school diploma for all publicly funded students, including students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Under state law, all students seeking to earn a high school diploma must meet the Competency Determination (CD) standard, as well as local graduation requirements. Massachusetts state law does not, however, require that a diploma must be issued to a student who has achieved a CD and completed local graduation requirements. Rather, these two conditions are prerequisites for graduation.

Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), even if a student with an IEP has met state and local requirements for graduation, a district may not properly graduate the student if the district did not provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to that student.

For additional information on graduation requirements for students with IEPs, please see Administrative Advisory SPED 2018-2: Secondary Transition Services and Graduation with a High School Diploma

Students with IEPs who do not meet the state's CD standard will remain eligible to receive educational services until they meet all graduation requirements or turn twenty-two years of age.

F. MCAS Appeals

In addition to the standard MCAS tests, retests, and alternate assessment competency portfolios, students may earn a Competency Determination (CD) through the MCAS Performance Appeals process. The Board established this process in 2002 for students who have been unable to demonstrate the required performance level on MCAS tests to show through their coursework that they have the knowledge and skills to meet or exceed the passing standard. When granted, a performance appeal is not a waiver of CD requirements, but an optional means of earning the CD.

If school and district officials believe that there is compelling evidence that a student has demonstrated the attainment of the state's learning standards through coursework, the superintendent may submit a performance appeal to the Commissioner on behalf of the student.

Before a performance appeal will be considered, evidence must be presented to show that the student meets performance appeal eligibility guidelines. The Commissioner has the authority to waive one or more of the eligibility requirements if there are extenuating circumstances such as serious illness or other hardship. In these cases, the superintendent must submit a written justification for a waiver of eligibility requirements.

II. Certificate of Attainment

Students who have not earned a CD in the required subjects may be eligible to receive a Certificate of Attainment if they have met all local (but not the state's) graduation requirements.

III. Scholarships Related to MCAS

Two scholarships are available based in part on student performance on the high school MCAS tests in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering:

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John and Abigail Adams Scholarship
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Stanley Z. Koplik Certificate of Mastery with Distinction Award

IV. Other High School Requirements and Guidelines

Massachusetts state law requires the instruction of American history and civics (G.L. c. 71, § 2) and physical education (G.L. c. 71, § 3).

The Massachusetts High School Program of Studies (MassCore) is intended to help high school graduates arrive at college or the workplace well prepared and to reduce the number of students taking remedial courses in college. The Department recommends that high school students complete the MassCore program of studies, which is a comprehensive set of subject area courses and units as well as other learning opportunities, before graduating from high school.

The MassCore program includes four years of English; four years of mathematics; three years of lab-based science; three years of history; two years of the same foreign language; one year of an arts program; and five additional "core" courses such as business education, health, and/or technology. MassCore also includes additional learning opportunities including AP classes, dual enrollment, a senior project, online courses for high school or college credit, and service or work-based learning.

 
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