The Thrive Act, a major education bill and legislative priority of AFT Massachusetts, has been scheduled for hearing by the Joint Committee on Education on October 4, 2023, starting at 2 p.m. in Gardner Auditorium at the State House. The hearing is expected to continue well into the evening. The official announcement including location, time, other bills covered, and how to sign up for and submit testimony, can be found here.
The bill, known formally as An Act Empowering Students and Schools to Thrive, would equip local communities with the tools and resources that students and schools need to succeed, and dramatically reduce the harm caused by the high-stakes, punitive use of standardized tests, such as state takeovers and denying students high school diplomas.
“The upcoming hearing will be a critical opportunity for educators, students, parents, and community members to impress upon legislators the harm caused by state takeovers and the high-stakes use of MCAS standardized tests, and to show there’s a better way forward—the Thrive Act,” says AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “We will be reaching out to local presidents to mobilize members and community allies for this event.”
As of September 2023, 66 members of the House and 19 state senators have signed on as co-sponsors of the Thrive Act. AFT Massachusetts appreciates their support and urges their colleagues to sign on as co-sponsors before the Oct. 4 hearing.
More About the Thrive Act
The Thrive Act was shaped with substantial input from AFT Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Citizens for Public Schools, and many other organizations affiliated with the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance (MEJA). All MEJA-affiliated groups have agreed to make the bill a major legislative priority during the current legislative session.
Specifically, the Thrive Act would:
- End the state’s harmful, failed, and undemocratic practice of taking over entire school districts based on low MCAS scores.
- Provide real help to high-need schools by eliminating the state’s failed and punitive state intervention/takeover system and replacing it with a more democratic and locally driven process for supporting schools and students.
- Establish a modified high school graduation requirement in which coursework as certified by the student’s district would replace the MCAS as the basis for showing student mastery of the skills, competencies, and knowledge required by the state standards.
- Create a special commission with a range of education stakeholders to shape a positive future vision for student/school assessment that is authentic, equitable, and focused on supporting the whole child.
MCAS Ballot Initiative Push Complements Thrive Act Effort
In early September 2023, the AFT Massachusetts Executive Board voted to endorse a proposed ballot initiative that would address one component of the Thrive Act: ending the MCAS-based graduation requirement and replacing it with one based on coursework.
“Our support for the ballot initiative complements our unwavering commitment to all components of the Thrive Act,” said Kontos. “It’s another route to the same policy end on the graduation requirement, and it helps chip away at the punitive, high-stakes nature of the MCAS. At the same, we remain fully committed to passing the Thrive Act in its entirety, and we urge all AFT Massachusetts members to double down on their efforts to get the Thrive Act passed during this legislative session.”
Thrive Act Advocacy Continues
Over the coming months, AFT Massachusetts will continue to work with allies to implement a comprehensive advocacy campaign in support of the Thrive Act. AFT Massachusetts members are central to that effort.
Here are some things you can do today:
- Contact your state representative and senator and ask them to co-sponsor/support the bill. If they’re already co-sponsors, please thank them for their support.
- If you don’t know the names of your state representative and senator, look them up here.
- To see if your state representative has already co-sponsored the bill, go here, and click on the petitioners tab. To see if your state senator is a co-sponsor, go here, and click on the petitioners tab.
- You can call their office or use the Action Alert tool to send an e-mail. If they’ve already co-sponsored the bill, please tailor the letter accordingly.
- Plan to give testimony at the Oct. 4 hearing in person or virtually. You may also submit written testimony. Details on how to sign up as a speaker and/or submit written testimony can be found here.
- Talk with your local union about officially endorsing the Thrive Act and/or setting up an educational forum with local legislators and the community. Local union leaders may contact Jeremy Shenk at AFT Massachusetts, email@example.com, for assistance.
- Encourage your local school committee to endorse the Thrive Act. See here for a sample resolution.
“It continues to be all hands on deck,” says Kontos. “This is a special opportunity to put our imprint on education for years to come—to move from a deficit model of test and punish to an asset-based model of resources and support. And to a model that supports the whole child—all facets of learning and growth. We must seize the moment and work strenuously in partnership with our allies to make this bill a reality.”