School board debates ‘high-stakes’ testing


During a recent meeting, School Committee member Dr. John Wells, referencing legislation recently introduced at the State House that would dramatically alter the manner in which so-called high stakes testing data is used, suggested city officials should take a position on the proposal.

“There seems to be a lot of support [for these changes], and we may want to take a look at whether we want to [weigh in],” said Wells.

Though he didn’t specifically mention the legislation by name, Wells was likely referring to a proposal entitled, “An Act Strengthening and Investing in our Educators, Students, and Communities”, which would implement comprehensive education reforms, including:

• The imposition of a three-year moratorium on the use of MCAS, PARCC, or the next generation MCAS 2.0 testing results as a high school graduation requirement;

• A prohibition on incorporating “student impact” ratings, or indicators based on MCAS or other student assessment data, into teacher evaluation grades;

• New limitations on the state’s power to mandate changes at “underperforming schools”, a designation that is now largely based upon test scores.

• A new recess mandate, which requires school districts to schedule weekly at least 100 minutes of free play time for pupils in grades K-5.

Introduced by State Senator Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury), Bill S.308 has garnered the support of more than 100 other legislators on Beacon Hill, including State Rep. James Dwyer (D-Woburn). In late January it was referred to the State House’s Joint Committee on Education for further study.

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Massachusetts’ ESSA Plan

Massachusetts ESSA State Plan

Massachusetts Consolidated State Plan Under ESSA – Draft for Public Comment   

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education welcomes your comments on our draft ESSA State Plan. Please submit feedback through this survey, or email The deadline for public comment is March 9, 2017. We expect to submit our plan to the U.S. Department of Education on April 3, 2017.

Massachusetts ESSA Plan: Executive Summary (draft for discussion)   

Massachusetts ESSA Plan: Highlights (draft for discussion)   


On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, reauthorizing the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) and replacing the most recent reauthorization of ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). With a few exceptions, ESSA will first take effect at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. The law includes provisions to help ensure improved outcomes for all students receiving elementary and secondary education, including the following:

  • States must establish high academic content standards, and schools must teach all students  those standards to help prepare them for college and careers
  • States, districts, and schools must share information with families, students, and communities regarding annual statewide assessments that measure students' progress toward these high standards
  • States and districts must establish systems of accountability and support for all schools, and provide particular support to the lowest-performing schools, schools with low-performing subgroups, and schools with low graduation rates