Supporters of the requirement that students pass the math, science and English MCAS exams in order to graduate from high school are considering appealing Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s certification of an initiative petition that would remove that requirement to the Supreme Judicial Court.

“We’re keeping all options open,” Tricia Lederer, communications director at the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, told the News Service on Thursday. “We definitely have not ruled it out.”

The Legislature over the years has stuck by the graduation requirement, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association is leading the push to eliminate it, arguing that preparing students to take the tests consumes too much time in classrooms. The union calls the testing-related graduation requirement “harmful” and says its proposed ballot question would make students eligible for a high school diploma “if, among other requirements, they complete coursework demonstrating mastery of competencies in our state’s high academic standards.” The MTA says 42 states don’t use a single, high-stakes test to deny diplomas to high school students.

The alliance and leaders of seven other influential groups that support the existing requirement issued a statement Wednesday saying they don’t believe the proposed ballot question meets the legal requirements for certification, but didn’t go as far as to say they would challenge Campbell’s ruling.

“…Our growing coalition is prepared to fight this measure and is confident that with more information about the positive outcomes the requirement has produced for all students, voters will reject it,” leaders of the groups said.

The coalition includes the local leaders of the Mass. High Technology Council, Pioneer Institute, Retailers Association of Massachusetts, the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the National Parents Union, and Democrats for Education Reform.

Opponents of the proposal argue that it should not have been certified as ballot-eligible because it would ask voters two different policy questions and fails the “relatedness requirement” in the state Constitution. They claim a voter weighing the measure could be put in an “impossible position” if they support eliminating a statewide mandate that students pass the MCAS to graduate but also think that local school boards should have the freedom to adopt a standardized-testing requirement in addition to, or instead of, the question’s reference to completing “coursework.”

“MCAS has proven to be a reliable indicator of a student’s college and career readiness and eliminating it as a graduation requirement would amount to a huge step backward in the Commonwealth’s quest to ensure that all Massachusetts high school graduates acquire a basic mastery of the subject areas needed to be successful in their futures,” the groups said in the joint statement Wednesday.

(Copyright (c) 2023 State House News Service.

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