State education czar flags adjustments in MCAS due to pandemic

Boston, MA  6/25/2020  Commissioner Jeffrey Riley (cq), with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, speaks.  He is flanked by Governor Charlie Baker (cq) and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito (cq).  Baker holds a press availability in the Gardner Auditorium, of the State House, during the coronavirus pandemic.  Plans for school reopening are disclosed.  POOL (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)  POOL PHOTO
Boston, MA 6/25/2020 Commissioner Jeffrey Riley (cq), with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, speaks. He is flanked by Governor Charlie Baker (cq) and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito (cq). Baker holds a press availability in the Gardner Auditorium, of the State House, during the coronavirus pandemic. Plans for school reopening are disclosed. POOL (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff) POOL PHOTO
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BOSTON – This year’s MCAS exams will feature “significantly” reduced testing time for third through eighth graders, and no schools will be newly named underperforming in the upcoming school year, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley told superintendents in a memo Tuesday.

“The sudden shift to remote learning last spring, and the continuation of hybrid/remote learning this school year has likely led to significant learning loss for students around the country. The extent of the learning loss in the Commonwealth is not yet known,” Riley wrote. “The Department continues to believe the MCAS test is a crucial diagnostic tool to promote student success and educational equity and we remain committed to administering the assessment this spring, while recognizing the need for adjustments and flexibility.”

Riley said he will recommend to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education modifying the competency-determination graduation requirement for the class of 2021, so that seniors would be able to demonstrate their competency in English and math by passing an approved course in that subject in lieu of earning a qualifying MCAS score.

Other changes include extending the testing window for ACCESS English language proficiency exams and granting districts flexibility in scheduling high school biology MCAS exams.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s disruptions to schooling have prompted teachers unions and some lawmakers to call for waiving MCAS tests this year, after the tests were cancelled last year.

This is a developing story.