Education leaders to vote Monday on requiring higher MCAS scores to graduate MA high schools

MALDEN, Mass. — Incoming first-year high school students may soon face stiffer requirements when it comes to graduating from public schools in Massachusetts.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to vote Monday on a proposal by Commissioner Jeffrey Riley that would force students to earn higher scores on their MCAS to graduate from high school. The plan was first presented in April.

Students in the classes of 2026–2029 would be required to earn a scaled score of at least 486 on the English language arts and mathematics MCAS and a scaled score of at least 470 on the science and technology/engineering MCAS tests to earn their “competency determination” in those subjects.

Riley says students in the classes of 2026–2029 who earn a scaled score of at least 470 (the lowest scaled score in the Partially Meeting Expectations achievement level) on the ELA and/or mathematics MCAS would not be required to take an MCAS retest or file an appeal, but they would be required to complete an Educational Proficiency Plan.

The Education Reform Act of 1993 established the “competency determination” for high school graduation.

Students must meet standards adopted by the Board - and measured by the MCAS - in order to be eligible for a high school diploma.

The Board raised the standard for the competency determination in 2010.

Since then, students have needed to earn a score of 240 (Proficient) on the grade 10 ELA and mathematics MCAS tests or earn a score of 220 (Needs Improvement) - and meet the course-taking requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan.

“Raising the CD standard is critical, as is the message that we believe students are capable of meeting the higher standard and the Commonwealth and its educators will support them to do that,” said Riley.

Citing an analysis by Educational Opportunity in Massachusetts, Riley says “the research showed that MCAS scores predict later outcomes in education and earnings and that a high percentage of students who score at or near the 220-equivalent on the high school MCAS tests are not well prepared for postsecondary success.”

“This evidence underscores the importance of raising the CD standard and also highlights the need to articulate clearly to students, parents, educators, and other stakeholders how the different levels of achievement on the MCAS tests—and in particular the CD level—signal whether a student is on track for success beyond high school, whether in postsecondary education, the military, the workplace, or independent and productive community life,” said Riley in his letter to the board.

The board is set to meet at noon on Monday about the changes and to vote on those changes.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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