SJC Agrees with Joint Amicus Brief Filed by Pioneer Public Interest Law Center, Contompasis and Caradonio

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BOSTON – On June 27, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court agreed with an amicus brief jointly filed by Pioneer Public Interest Law Center, former Boston Public Schools Superintendent Michael Contompasis and former Worcester Superintendent James Caradonio, rejecting the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s (MTA’s) challenge to the language of a November ballot initiative that would eliminate the requirement that students pass English language arts, math and science MCAS tests to graduate from the Commonwealth’s public high schools.

Massachusetts law requires the attorney general and secretary of state to jointly prepare a fair and neutral one-sentence statement describing the effect of a yes or no vote.  The “yes” statement slated to appear on the ballot reads: “A YES VOTE would eliminate the requirement that students pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) in order to graduate high school but still require students to complete coursework that meets state standards.”

The MTA advocated for changing the statement to “A YES VOTE would require that for a student to graduate high school, the school district must determine that the student satisfactorily completed coursework certified by the district as demonstrating mastery of state curriculum standards instead of passing MCAS.”

Pioneer Law Center, Contompasis and Caradonio argued that the MTA’s suggested language is “overtly deceptive” because it falsely implies that MCAS would be replaced by a new statewide standard.

The brief also took issue with the phrase “coursework certified by the district,” arguing that it creates “an illusory promise of competency.”

“To expect cities and towns to be able to substitute an effective measure of accountability that MCAS provides is farfetched and will not work,” Caradonio said.

The brief was prepared with pro bono assistance from Nicholas M. O’Donnell of Sullivan & Worcester LLP.