This law proposes educational standards be more flexible to allow for alternative schools such as Montessori or models such as interdisciplinary; that MCAS testing time be limited; and that standards be revised and edited more regularly by teachers and parents. The law also reduces the testing requirement for a diploma.
An Act supporting evolving educational standards that allow interdisciplinary education, need-based 3R instruction, and reduced testing time
SECTION 1. Section 1D of chapter 69 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out paragraphs one through four and inserting in place thereof the following paragraphs:-
Section 1D. The board shall establish a set of statewide educational goals for all public elementary and secondary schools in the commonwealth as follows.
(a) Core academic standards shall be set for grade levels or clusters of grades to include reading, writing, language arts, mathematics, sciences, health, and the subjects of history, government, civics, and social science, the latter 4 of which may be combined under the umbrella term social science and history. Additional standards may also be developed for technology, foreign languages, English literature, and other subjects.
The standards shall clearly set forth knowledge expected to be possessed at the conclusion of clusters of grades, but not so as to control and define all knowledge taught but instead in order to insure acquisition of basic as well as necessary knowledge and skills to advance students as capable learners and citizens. In particular, core academic standards shall be designed for flexibility and to allow for interdisciplinary and alternative models of learning. The use of standards shall not circumscribe students to an ivory tower model of learning, nor shall standards require that students master all subjects for which standards exist.
(b) Academic standards shall follow the following guidelines.
Recognizing that not all educational and interpersonal exchanges can or should be measured, standards shall not be used to narrow acceptable content and deny the reasonable but extraneous integration within classroom lessons of informal and age-appropriate interpersonal relations, tangents, break activities, related subjects, art, or current events, provided that the standards are met. Neither shall standards be designed to prescribe, quantify, and measure student character or interpersonal relationships, leaving any issues in this area for to administrators and teachers to address on a more personal level.
Neither shall the design or promulgation of state educational standards serve to require intensive time meeting bureaucratic requirements from either teachers or administrators. Neither shall the length of content in standards be so extensive and inflexible as to dictate unremitting study, disallow student breaks, prevent extracurricular activities, or defeat local input or teacher creativity regarding educational content. Standards shall be appropriate for grade level and respectful of time constraints.
Neither shall state educational standards and coursework prescriptions be designed so inflexibly as to prevent a public school, within the traditional time frame, from engaging in interdisciplinary learning, pursing immersive foreign language learning, or allowing for alternative models of education such as Montessori, Waldorf, or vocational training.
Neither shall state standards serve to “standardize” education, serving to limit diversity of content, methodology, and points of view.
Standards shall be expressed primarily in terms that lend to objective measurement, but shall not deny or eclipse the value of less measurable value in interpersonal exchanges, art, imagination, and the humanities. They shall be designed to inculcate respect for the cultural, ethnic and racial diversity of the commonwealth and for the contributions made by diverse cultural, ethnic and racial groups to the life of the commonwealth. Standards shall be designed to avoid perpetuating gender, cultural, ethnic or racial stereotypes. Standards shall reflect sensitivity to different learning styles and impediments to learning.
The standards shall provide for instruction in at least the major principles of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. The standards shall provide for instruction in comparative political and economic systems. The standards shall provide for instruction in the fundamentals of the history of the commonwealth as well as the history of working people, voting, consumer rights, and the labor movement in the United States. The standards shall provide for practical instruction in availing oneself of consumer rights, legal protections, and government representation, as well as of understanding the purpose of state and federal legal and financial agencies.
The standards for mathematics shall include basic financial management skills.
The standards for health shall provide for instruction in the issues of physical education, human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome education, nutrition, self-care, violence prevention, including teen dating violence, bullying prevention, conflict resolution, abusive patterns, digital risks, marketing tricks, potential pharmaceutical hazards, mold, radon, and drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse prevention. Health standards shall provide for instruction on state and federal health, agricultural, and environmental agencies, including functions and failures in policing environmental pollution, consumer products, and pharmaceuticals. Health standards shall provide for attention to recognizing and avoiding current environmental pollutants and risks, including discussion of cosmetics, construction, industrial run-off, technology, and within foods. Health standards shall include the teaching of family life skills, emergency care, basic child care, the necessity of social contact, and the value, process, and difficulty of nursing children with breast milk.
The standards shall integrate major principles of environmental science and ecology. The standards shall include other sciences, and shall be written and evolve in such a way as to reflect current and credible science, as well as analytical reflection and social aspects including the dangers and pitfalls possible with science and technology.
The standards for English shall be careful to distinguish between English literature as compared to language arts, the latter which shall be a core academic standard.
The purpose of assigning language arts as a core subject, as opposed to the subject English, is to place skills of writing, reading, and understanding at the forefront, and to set aside literary terms and complex English literature analysis as a core academic subject for all students. Instead of English literature analysis and literary terms, language arts shall serve as the core academic standard as this allows students to pursue courses outside of English literature.
Language arts, as conveyed in this section, is inclusive of creative writing, nonfiction, fiction, expository writing, and analytical reading, but does not connote an ivory tower education in the sense of constructing essays of literary analysis or knowing obscure literary terms. Occasionally, English is mistakenly misconstrued as solely the province of English literature studies. When expressed in this section, English shall mean language arts and skills, and shall not mean to refer to “English literature.” Core academic standards shall be designed to allow for language arts or English to be taught in subjects besides English literature. This shall allow course requirements for English to include subjects other than English literature, besides allowing for interdisciplinary learning and improving flexibility.
The board may also set reasonable standards for student community service-learning activities and programs.
Neither shall the promulgation of state standards and expectations serve to prevent course work that meets student needs. Basic mathematics, writing, and reading skills at the eighth grade level are necessary to allow learning to proceed at the secondary and collegiate level, and so the provision of alternative and intensive coursework in either mathematics or reading to bring students to grade level shall be encouraged. To use “expectations” as excuse to ignore and neglect serious barriers in reading and mathematics, leaving students permanently struggling, is a failing that shall not be allowed on the part of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. To allow attention to the needs of students who are behind reading and mathematics expectations, provision for intensive instruction in the area of reading, writing or mathematics needs and a separate set of intensive instruction and leveled standards shall apply to these students to bring them up to speed, setting aside some other academic coursework if helpful, but not depriving students of physical education, health, and beloved extra-curricular activities. These special standards shall be termed leveled standards, and their use alone shall not serve to penalize schools or students, but instead to assist. Placement on leveled standards shall be a temporary measure until students can return to grade-level standards.
Leveled standards shall serve to bring students to grade level in an area of need, but shall not serve to excuse students from state requirements for graduation.
(d) The board shall direct the commissioner to institute a process to develop academic standards according to grade level or clusters of grades, serving to provide parity in basic or necessary expectations in a particular course or for a grade or clusters of grades.
In developing standards, the board shall offer the task to willing public school teachers, respective to grade level and specialty, as well as to willing public school legal guardians and parents. Retired teachers may also participate. Committees for different standards shall be distributed across the commonwealth to develop templates, and shall be provided with a mechanism to share drafts with the public at large and to invite additional remote participation and comment. Committees may invite graduate students in education or professors with relevant degrees to participate in development of standards. These committees shall be called Standard Committees, and secondarily labeled according to the standard and grade level or levels addressed. Where possible and subject to appropriation, funding shall be provided to reduce teacher workloads or to allow for participation of low-income teachers, with emphasis on providing support for committees needing to make significant changes or develop entirely new standards.
In creating a standards committee for English or language arts, the composition of the committee shall be inclusive of subjects outside English literature, as the English standards are meant to be interdisciplinary.
Upon completion of a final draft, committees shall present and share this final draft with the community for final analysis. A local and state public meeting shall be allotted for presentation and discussion, to which teachers, parents, and community members shall be invited.
The minimum timeline for initial draft shall be one year, and the minimum timeline for completion shall be 4 months later, but completion may occur sooner. Upon completion, the Department of Education shall continue to collate and receive criticisms of the standards. In a year or two following completion of standards, criticisms and praise shall be addressed with the formation of new standards committees, who shall be provided commentary, improve upon the existing standards, and follow the same procedure. Continuing forward, this pattern shall repeat every four years.
A copy of said standards shall be submitted to the joint committee on education at least sixty days prior to taking effect.
(e) Subject to appropriation, the board shall establish a grant program which shall award grants to school districts for the costs associated with establishing advanced placement courses. The board shall promulgate regulations defining the standards of eligibility and other implementation guidelines.
Subject to appropriation, the board shall establish an advanced placement test fee grant program which shall award grants to school districts for the reimbursement of application fees for students based on financial need in order to assist students with paying the fee for advanced placement tests. The board shall promulgate regulations defining the standards of eligibility and other implementation guidelines for this program.
(f) Competency tests shall be provided by the state, but shall be limited in the amount of time allowed for testing. In elementary, time limits as stated for testing shall be based on time needed for an average, competent student to complete the test at his or her grade level. Through seventh grade, the total amount of student testing time, as per average student, shall be no more than 2 hours total and no more than 40 minutes at a sitting and shall be completed within two days. From eighth to twelfth grade, the total amount of testing time shall be no more than three hours total and no more than 40 minutes in a sitting, and shall be completed within two days. Additional time, which may be divided, of up to 90 minutes total shall be allowed to familiarize students with test procedures.
Competency tests shall be straightforward tests of subject matter and shall not be designed with trick questions or to provide assessments of student political beliefs or personal lives.
In one school year schools shall be allowed one day outside of testing to familiarize students with the state competency test, but shall otherwise not focus on providing test familiarity nor shall schools provide students with materials and assignments that compare to the state competency tests except to address the content of the standards.
(g) The standards shall include criteria for three determinations or certificates with respect to graduation. Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit a student from beginning a program of vocational education before achieving a determination of competency. Such vocational education may begin at grade nine, ten or eleven. No provision of law shall prohibit concurrent pursuit of a competency determination and vocational learning. There shall be no cause of action for a parent, guardian or student who fails to obtain a competency determination, a certificate of mastery or a certificate of occupational proficiency.
The standards shall also include criteria for three determinations or certificates as follows:
(1) The ''competency determination'' shall be based on the academic standards and curriculum frameworks for tenth graders in the areas of mathematics, science, history and social science, English, and any other subjects as decided by the local district or charter school. Competency shall mean that a particular student has demonstrated mastery of these core academic standards. A determination of competency shall be measured not only at the local level, but by meeting a minimum score in eighth grade competency tests in mathematics and language arts, and in one other competency test at the eighth or tenth grade level in any academic subject. Satisfaction of the requirements of the competency determination shall be a condition for high school graduation.
If the particular student's assessment results in the eighth or tenth grade do not demonstrate the required level of competency, the student shall have the right to participate in the assessment program the following year or years. Students who fail to satisfy the requirements of the competency determination may be eligible to receive an educational assistance plan designed within the confines of the foundation budget to impart the skills, competencies and knowledge required to attain the required level of mastery. The parent, guardian or person acting as parent of the student shall have the opportunity to review the remedial plan with the student's teachers. Nothing in this section shall be construed to provide a parent, guardian, person acting as a parent or student with an entitlement to contest the proposed plan or with a cause of action for educational malpractice if the student fails to obtain a competency determination.
(2) The ''certificate of mastery'' shall be based upon a determination that the recipient has demonstrated mastery of a comprehensive body of skills, competencies and knowledge comparable to that possessed by accomplished graduates of high school or equivalent programs in the most advanced educational systems in the world. The criteria for a certificate of mastery may incorporate a number of factors which may include, but not be limited to, any of the following: high school graduation standards, state assessment instruments, and demonstrated excellence in areas not reflected by the state's assessment instruments, such as artistic or literary achievement. Eligibility for potential receipt of a certificate of mastery shall extend to all secondary students residing in the commonwealth.
(3) The ''certificate of occupational proficiency'' shall be awarded to students who successfully complete a comprehensive education and training program in a particular trade or professional skill area and shall reflect a determination that the recipient has demonstrated mastery of a core of skills, competencies and knowledge comparable to that possessed by students of equivalent age entering the particular trade or profession from the most educationally advanced education systems in the world. No student may receive said certificate of occupational proficiency without also having acquired a competency determination.