BOSTON — Amid school disruptions caused by coronavirus, Massachusetts’ largest teachers union is renewing a push to put the brakes on standardized testing.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, which has long sought to ease testing requirements, is lobbying for a four-year moratorium on the state’s benchmark test given to students in third through eighth grades.

The proposal also suspends a requirement tying high school diplomas to the exam.

If the legislation passes, the state would need a waiver from federal testing requirements from the U.S. Department of Education. Gov. Charlie Baker received one such waiver to cancel the graduation tests this past spring, after closing public and private schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

At least two other states, Georgia and South Carolina, have announced plans to seek waivers to suspend standardized tests next school year.

Merrie Najimy, the union’s president, says teachers and students don’t need the added stress of high-stakes testing amid lingering effects of the pandemic and the challenges of reopening school.

She said the pitfalls of remote learning have had a major impact on low-income and minority students.

“MCAS would do nothing more than reflect those problems,” she said. “Worse, it would be used as a weapon to deem these students and schools as failing.”

The proposal, backed by nearly 60 state lawmakers, would halt the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS, for four years. Assessments of schools would not longer be based on test results.

“We’re talking about testing students at a time when there’s already so much disruption to education and emotional trauma as a result of the pandemic,” said state Rep. Christina Minicucci, D-North Andover, a co-sponsor of the bill and mother of two school-age children. “This seems like a good time to hit pause.”

Minicucci said $32 million the state spends on standardized tests would be better spent on classrooms.

State Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s Education Committee, said easing testing is worth considering, though the state would need another way to gauge student and school performance.

Lovely said she hears regular complaints about the impact of too much testing, and not just from MCAS. “It’s creating a lot of anxiety,” she said.

Each year more than 70,000 students take the MCAS, the benchmark standardized test in Massachusetts for more than 25 years. Students in the 10th grade are required to pass the math, English and science exams to graduate high school.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at cwade@cnhi.com

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