A Statement on The Graduation Requirement- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

A Statement on The Graduation Requirement

"Those who take the position that one academic test should not be used as a condition for graduation from Massachusetts public high schools are ignoring the fundamental fact that thousands of students graduate every year without the basic mathematics and English skills and knowledge needed to function adequately in the workplace or in college.

The law is very clear that local districts may use a variety of assessments and the Commonwealth is required to establish through the competency determination a standard for graduation. I am confident that the standard we have set is fair, reasonable and one that can be achieved.

In a recent study conducted by MassInc, the data shows that 1.1 million Massachusetts adults in the workplace today do not have the basic literacy skills needed for competency or success. This is troubling, but worse is that 667,000 of these people were given diplomas from Massachusetts high schools. If you talk with some of these young people, you will see that we have been doing them a disservice by merely passing them through the educational system.

It is true that the MCAS test material in the "Advanced" and "Proficient" categories is challenging. To qualify for a diploma, students must pass English and math at a score of 220, just one point above "Failing." This is not a tough challenge and is achievable for most. Again, I urge the general public and educators in particular to look at actual student answers in the "Failing" category of last spring's tenth grade MCAS English and math tests. (Samples of actual student answers are attached at the end of this statement.) In my view, this work is unacceptable and does not warrant a diploma from a Massachusetts high school.

Now is not the time to back away from our obligation to our children. This is the time to stand strong together in partnership to ensure that our young people's educational rights are upheld. This standard should be maintained.

Listed here are three examples of tenth grade student work in the "Failing" category of last spring's MCAS tests in English and math.

[July 2006: Samples no longer available.]

Last Updated: February 14, 2001

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