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Lynch School of Education

MCAS Results Released

Dr. Henry Braun

This past week, the results from the spring 2012 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests were released on the state level as well as school and district-wide.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Education, students must pass the grade 10 tests in English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics and one of the four high school Science and Technology Engineering tests as a condition of eligibility for a high school diploma.

Dr. Henry Braun, Boisi professor of education and director of CSTEEP, weighed in on the announcement:

"The results of the 2012 MCAS administration were recently released and were greeted with much fanfare. Especially noteworthy was the one year increase in the percentage of students Proficient or higher in Grade 10 ELA – from 84% to 88%, with the latter figure representing a 13% increase since 2008. Over that same period, the increases in the percentages of students Proficient or higher in Grade 10 Math and Grade 10 STE were 6% and 12%, respectively. These increases are generally higher, and often much higher, than the increases recorded in Grades 3-8. The divergence between Grade 10 trends and those in the lower grades bears some watching."

"MCAS results tell us more about the past than about the future, although consistent upward trends certainly hold the promise of continuing improvement. However, like most other states, Massachusetts will be transitioning both to a new multi-state assessment battery and to a new set of performance standards. The intention is to establish an end-of-high school performance standard that signifies readiness for college and career and, in earlier grades, a standard that signifies being on-track for college and career readiness (CCR). It is likely that the new standards will be more comparable to today’s Advanced standard than today’s Proficient standard. If that is indeed the case, then looking at levels and trends in percentages of students meeting the Advanced standard offers a window to the future. What do we see when we peer through that window?"

"Focusing attention on Grades 3-8, the percentages of Advanced students in ELA hover around 20% and in Mathematics around 28%. In both subjects the increases in these percentages over five years (2007 – 2012) are about 5%. The gaps between White students on the one hand, and Black and Hispanic students on the other, are about 13% in ELA and about 19% in Mathematics. Clearly, there is much room for improvement as we look toward the transition year of 2014-15. This year’s Grade 10 results are again somewhat anomalous: In ELA 37% of all students were Advanced and in Mathematics it was 50%. In both subjects the gaps were about 30%. It remains to be seen whether these percentages hold up three years from now when high school students sit for the new assessment and are designated as CCR – or not."

A full report on the MCAS test results is available at www.doe.mass.edu.

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