Massachusetts education officials say MCAS testing is necessary during the pandemic to analyze learning loss and growing achievement gaps.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) announced today that this year’s testing would have flexibilities for schools including a shorter test for students in grades 3-8 and a modified competency determination for the class of 2021.

After testing is complete for this school year, DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said he will not name any new schools or districts as underperforming or chronically underperforming, as have been identified in the past.

This unprecedented school year has been inconsistent for schools across the commonwealth each individual district having various education models. Some schools have been learning through a hybrid model since September while others have not been in a classroom since March when all schools shut down. For many districts, including several in Berkshire County the second wave of COVID cases has led to a temporary halt of in-person learning altogether.

In an interview with MassLive, Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser says MCAS will take place in the spring and said the department hopes and expects that all students will be in classrooms at that time.

The DESE is working on options and trying to find a way to test students, especially in grades 3-8, who opted out of the school year and will continue at home learning for the remainder of the year.  Tenth and eleventh-graders however will likely be required to be tested in school.

Members of the Massachusetts Teachers Association have been actively reaching out to DESE with petitions, emails, and phone calls to cancel MCAS. The association says Tuesday’s announcement shows that DESE met them partway.

Throughout the pandemic, educators and officials have been concerned about the "Covid Slide" and the long-term effects of learning loss, particularly for students from low-income and disadvantaged families.

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