Changes to High School Graduation Standards and Accountability Regulations Up For Public Comment- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

Changes to High School Graduation Standards and Accountability Regulations Up For Public Comment

MALDEN - The public will have until September to comment on two sets of proposed regulations: one to help move all students toward proficiency, and another aimed at improving the state’s school performance accountability and targeted assistance system.

The Board of Education on Tuesday voted to send both sets of amendments out for public comment through September, and will vote on the final proposals at their October meeting.

The first set of amendments will enhance the state’s graduation requirement to ensure more graduates leave high school well prepared for college and/or career. The accountability amendments aim to simplify and shorten the process under which schools are flagged for state intervention, clarify expectations, and establish different levels of intervention appropriate to different situations.

Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll said that both issues are critical to the continued success of the state’s public schools.

“How to move all students to proficiency and improve our low performing schools are the two biggest issues we grapple with every day,” he said. “The change in the graduation standards will move the great majority of our students to proficiency and beyond, a level of achievement required in today’s economy. The accountability changes will allow us to provide more timely support to struggling schools because we simply cannot stand by and watch when students in certain schools or districts are not achieving.”

Board of Education Chairman James Peyser agreed.

“To date, state interventions in low performing schools have yielded uneven and marginal improvements, at best. This new policy will not solve the problem of underperforming schools by itself, but it will create the opportunity for more timely and effective action.”

The proposal on the competency determination standard for high school graduation addresses the “unacceptable” number of students passing the MCAS exam but graduating unprepared for college and career, he said.

“We have largely succeeded in ensuring that all high school graduates acquire certain basic skills in reading, writing and math, but we have yet to ensure they reach the level of knowledge and skill essential for success after high school,” Peyser said. “To meet this challenge, we must not abandon or lower our standards; we must thoughtfully, but

boldly, raise them.”

The MCAS amendments include:

  • A requirement that all students, beginning with the class of 2009, must score a 240 (Proficient) or higher on the grade 10 English and math MCAS exams. Those who score between 220 (Needs Improvement) and 238 must complete an Educational Proficiency Plan aimed at moving the student to proficiency by the end of grade 12.
  • Beginning with the class of 2012, all students must score at least a 220 on the high school History and Social Science MCAS exam.
  • An enhancement of the Certificate of Mastery requirements to indicate that the recipient is prepared for college or career.
  • The creation of the Certificate of Mastery with Distinction to be awarded to students who demonstrate advanced achievement in both the humanities and mathematics/sciences.

The accountability amendments include:

  • An accelerated timeline for initiating state action to support improved student performance in schools identified for improvement, to be known as “Commonwealth Priority Schools.”
  • A detailed plan the Department and Commissioner will follow to determine the type of assistance and oversight needed to improve the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in Commonwealth Priority Schools. A school that requires an alternative form of governance would be called a “New Beginnings School.”
  • A description of the essential conditions required toguide the revision and alignment of existing Department protocols for school performance review, improvement planning and intervention.
  • The establishment of formal partnerships with individuals and organizations qualified to provide expert assistance to district and school leaders at Commonwealth Priority Schools.
  • The establishment of a State Review Panel of highly qualified experts in education and organizational leadership to conduct review activities and advise the Board on accountability system determinations.

Public comment on the proposed high school graduation standards will be accepted until September 30; public comment on the accountability proposal will be accepted until September 15. The full text of the proposed amendments can be found online at

Last Updated: June 27, 2006

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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