Summaries of CPS Priority Legislation for 2013

1) An Act to Improve Assessment and Accountability to Ensure Students Acquire 21st Century Skills

House Bill 489

  • Twenty years later, the Commonwealth has yet to fully realize the goals of the Education Reform Act of 1993 (ERA), which called for a comprehensive assessment system composed of a variety of instruments and methods.
  • Our current system has its strengths but has also brought unintended consequences such as narrowed curriculum, too much time spent on standardized testing and test preparation, student disengagement, but even more troubling, stagnant achievement gaps and a rising dropout rate, including 10,000 Massachusetts students who leave school permanently every year.
  • To build on the strengths of our public schools, address weaknesses, close achievement gaps and move toward a full realization of ERA, we need a balanced assessment and accountability system that will promote 21st century skills, educate the whole child and focus state attention and resources on schools and districts that most need help in their efforts to improve quality and outcomes for every student.

This balanced system will consist of the following integrated components:

  • Locally-developed and state approved assessments to evaluate student achievement and school quality.  It will retain some MCAS testing and incorporate multiple measures, including exhibitions, projects and portfolios, to better assess 21st century skills.  A balance between traditional testing and other assessments will remedy the problems of too much standardized testing, too much test preparation and too little attention to developing 21st century skills and educating the whole child.
  • State-developed end-of-course exams in English, math, science and history that measure key content and 21st century skills.  This will help remedy an MCAS-driven curriculum that is too often a mile wide and an inch deep, and assess our high school students’ mastery of the core curriculum with greater rigor and relevance.  Students will take them seriously because they will count for 20% of their course grades.
  • Required annual local reporting by schools to their communities, using a state-defined set of indicators that focus on equal opportunity and access to knowledge for all students as well as results on local assessments, statewide standardized tests, and the quality review.
  • This new balanced system will maintain high standards, comply with NCLB and not repeal the MCAS.

For more information please contact:

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Office of Rep. Sciortino,

617-722-2013 or

Marilyn Segal, Citizens for Public Schools, 617-227-3000,


2) An Act to Expand Access to the MCAS Appeals Process

House Bill 444


Many students are clearing the MCAS bar and earning high school diplomas, but there are still far too many for whom repeated failure saps their inspiration to continue their education:

  • For students who meet the standards in their classroom work, but fail to pass the state standardized tests–whether due to disabilities, language barriers, test anxieties, or other factors–the system often leaves them no choice but to drop out of school.
  • For most students who leave school without a high school diploma–about 10,000 Massachusetts students each year–their future is bleak, indeed.
  • Of the 10,000 young people who leave school each year, approximately 3,000–including 2,000 with disabilities–leave because they have failed to pass the MCAS.
  • There are wide disparities from district to district in access to and information about the appeals process, with many students and families who would most benefit left in the dark.

H. 444 will provide these students currently “left behind” with an opportunity to demonstrate that they have attained the academic competencies required for a high school diploma.

The bill expands access to the appeals process and relies on multiple data sources. It will provide students with a fair appeals process by which they can demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

We need to find paths to help all students succeed.  H. 444 will help provide hope and fairness by expanding the right to appeal to all students, requiring notice to parents and students, and reducing some of the current barriers to appeal.

Why this Bill is an Improvement over the Current MCAS Appeal Process

  • Provides all students with the right to appeal.
  • Requires that parents and students will be informed of their right to appeal.
  • Promotes ongoing improvement in the performance appeals system by mandating data collection regarding MCAS performance appeals and best practices.

Major Features of the Bill

  • Any student will be eligible to file an appeal who has failed the math or English Language Arts MCAS at least two times (or after one failure of the Science or Technology MCAS) or the MCAS Alternative Assessment at least one time.  (Current law requires failure at least three times for MCAS, and at least two times for MCAS Alternative; current law provides that only special education students have the right to appeal, if requested by the student or a parent or guardian.  H. 444 extends this right to all students.)
  • Parents and students must be notified of their right to an appeal after the first failure, and that they have a right to have an advocate to assist in the appeal.
  • The Commissioner of Education shall grant the appeal for any student if there is a preponderance of evidence that the student has attained the minimum required knowledge and skills for a high school diploma in MCAS-related subjects. Written findings of a denial must be provided, if requested by the student or parents.
  • The Commissioner must submit a report annually on the appeals process including the total number of appeals filed and the disposition of each. The Commissioner will develop an appeals template for local districts and report on best practices for appeals.
  • This bill does NOT change the standard for appeal, but simply removes some of the barriers to the appeal process, allowing and encouraging more students to appeal, to enable more students to graduate from high school.

For more information please contact:

Liana Poston, Office of Rep. Malia,

617-722-2060,; or,

Marilyn Segal, Citizens for Public Schools, 617-227-3000,


3) An Act Requiring School Districts, with the Assistance of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to Disclose Information about Required Assessments

House Bill 490



Almost twenty years have passed since Massachusetts’ began its current standardized testing requirements known as MCAS, and each year since then, the number of tests given and the test preparation time has increased substantially, reducing the time for learning, narrowing the curriculum and sorting our students.

Meanwhile, parents are often given less notice and less information, or conflicting information, about the types of tests being given, what they are being used for and what effect the results will have on their children.  Many parents are overwhelmed and confused by the continual testing schedule and therefore are not always able to help their children cope with the expectations and pressure of the current testing system.

This bill is intended to make sure parents get the information they need to help their children understand and manage this new school testing culture, by requiring school districts to notify parents and guardians of enrolled students, kindergarten through twelfth grade, about all upcoming standardized assessments required by the state or federal government, including, among other things, the following information:

  • When the assessments will be administered,
  • The subject area covered,
  • The time each is expected to take,
  • Whether it is required for graduation,
  • How the results will be used and when they will be released,
  • How the assessment advances student learning,
  • The cost of the assessment to the local district and the state, and,
  • Information about the availability of appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities and English language learners.

Assistance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)

Not all school districts have the resources to provide this timely information, so this bill requires the state DESE to provide regularly updated information to districts to enable them to send timely and accurate information to their parents.  In addition, DESE will be required to provide templates and other assistance necessary to districts to provide the required notice.  It shall institute a grant program for districts to help pay the costs of this notification, and the funding for this program shall come from the state funding allocated to the DESE to administer the state standardized testing program.

For more information please contact:

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Office of Rep. Sciortino,

617-722-2013 or

Marilyn Segal, Citizens for Public Schools, 617-227-3000,