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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Massachusetts test scores record high

Published: September 21, 2012
Section: News

Last Monday, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that 10th grade standardized test scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams were the highest in the history of the test. Eighty eight percent of Massachusetts 10th graders scored proficient or better in English Language Arts (ELA), and 78 percent scored proficient or better in mathematics, according to a press release from the Department of Education.

Compared to scores from 1998, the first year the MCAS was used, this year’s data is extremely significant. In the first year of the test, only 38 percent of students were considered proficient in ELA and 24 percent reached the benchmark in math. An additional 40,000 students in grade 10 are scoring proficient or better since the first test.

The improved performance sheds light on the progress of initiatives meant to eliminate the achievement gap between white and minority students. Both African American and Hispanic/Latino students scored noticeably higher since testing in 2008. Since the passing of the Achievement Gap Act in 2010, schools have had additional resources available to help close the historic gap. Along with the achievement gap legislations, initiatives like Race to the Top and the Gateway Cities Education Agenda, schools have made strides in both working to close the gap and improve scores overall.

Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, said in the press release that “students and educators across the Commonwealth are rising to the challenge of the high standards and expectations we set for them.”

Looking at the longevity of the scores and improvements since the inception of the test “validates the state’s significant investment in public education and its effort to prepare all students for success after high school.”

Improvements were not limited to the 10th grade. All years saw improvement since last year in nine of 17 tests, and in 14 of 17 compared to five years ago. Fourth graders saw improvement by four percent in both ELA and math compared to a year ago. Among the three grades tested in Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) each realized improved scores compared to last year.

With all of this improvement seen in the difference of a year, there were still a few points of regression. Third grade math and fifth grade ELA saw a drop of five and six percent respectively, both reaching 61 percent. Despite these drops from a year ago, the overall progress makes these slips little cause for concern, officials believe.

Since last year, five tests saw improvement across the board among every student subgroup (African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, white, students with disabilities, English language learners and low income students).