CPS testimony supporting H.525: “An Act to ensure educational rights are upheld for incarcerated youth”

Testimony to the Joint Committee on Education in Support of H.515

June 6, 2023 

Dear Chair Garlick, Chair Lewis, and members of the Joint Committee on Education,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony in support of “An Act to ensure educational rights are upheld for incarcerated youth” (H.515). I am Lisa Guisbond, Executive Director of Citizens for Public Schools, a statewide public education advocacy organization. CPS’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect public schools and public education. We also work to further education justice and to expose and dismantle barriers to educational opportunity and equity. 

On behalf of our Board of Directors, I am writing to enthusiastically support this bill’s goal of ensuring that youth, age 18-22, incarcerated in adult correctional facilities, have access to the educational services they need and to which they are legally entitled. This includes high school, special education, higher education and/or vocational education.    → Read More

CPS Releases New Report – High-stakes use of MCAS harms children. Facts support the “Thrive Act.”

The use of state MCAS scores for making critical decisions about students, schools, and school districts has had a harmful effect on all three. That’s the conclusion of a new report from Citizens for Public Schools and the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). 

The report is titled Lessons Learned: After 25 years of test-and-punish accountability, it’s time to end the misuse of tests and help all our students to thrive. It supports passage of the “Thrive Act” which aims to stop the damage and improve educational quality and equity for all Massachusetts students. The Thrive Act would keep MCAS testing but end the MCAS graduation requirement. It would also stop stake takeovers of local schools and districts based on scores. 

“Children are being harmed by the misguided use of MCAS standardized test scores as a barrier to graduation and a bludgeon against schools and districts that educate our most vulnerable students,” said Lisa Guisbond, one of the report authors and executive director of Citizens for Public Schools.   → Read More

Why the MCAS Grad Requirement Hurts Students

Citizens for Public Schools has fought the MCAS graduation requirement since its inception. We believe students who meet the state academic standards by passing all their required courses have earned their diplomas and should receive them.

We attempted to calculate the number of students deprived of their diplomas over the past 20 years because of MCAS. We used publicly available statistics published by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). 

We calculated the number of students who were enrolled as high school seniors but were not eligible for a diploma because they had not passed the required MCAS tests. According to the Boston Globe, our estimate was too high because it includes students who had not yet met other graduation requirements. This was an unintentional mistake on our part. 

The Globe says it learned from DESE that the number of students denied diplomas because of MCAS was “only” 702 for one year – 2019.    → Read More

CPS Statement – ‘Commissioner Riley: Remove Incorrect Information about MCAS Refusal’

As Massachusetts schools administer MCAS tests this week, Citizens for Public Schools calls on Jeff Riley, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, to remove the incorrect information on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) web site about a legal requirement that students take the MCAS. 

There is no such requirement.

The site cites General Laws Chapter 69, section 1I. That section says, “[C]omprehensive diagnostic assessment of individual students shall be conducted at least in the fourth, eighth and tenth grades. Said diagnostic assessments shall identify academic achievement levels of all students in order to inform teachers, parents, administrators and the students themselves, as to individual academic performance.”

The DESE web site claims federal law requires students to take the test. That is also false. No such law exists. The law says the test must be given but does not require students to participate. Every year, tens of thousands of students across the nation opt out or refuse to participate in their state’s testing program.    → Read More

CPS Open Letter Calls on State Officials to Reject Proposed Worcester Charter School

Citizens for Public Schools calls on state officials to reject the proposal from Worcester Cultural Academy to create a new charter school in Worcester.

We ask Commissioner Jeff Riley to withdraw his favorable recommendation, Gov. Maura Healey and Education Secretary Patrick Tutwiler to oppose the proposal, and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to reject it if Commissioner Riley does not withdraw it.

CPS was among the vast majority of individuals and groups who submitted public comment against the proposal, comments that were ignored in Commissioner Riley’s favorable recommendation.

Worcester educators have provided detailed criticism of the curriculum and other aspects of the proposal, and pointed out the harm it would do to children in Worcester Public Schools that will lose many millions of dollars to the new charter if it is approved.

But the application also raises an issue that has nothing to do with the benefits or harm of charter schools.   → Read More