MCAS Results Improve, But Many Grads Are Unprepared

Scores posted by Massachusetts high school students on standardized MCAS tests continue to improve, yet many graduates are still not fully prepared for the academic rigors of college, state education officials said Wednesday.

Gov. Deval Patrick's administration touted a record high performance on the exams taken by 10th graders last spring. The percentages of students scoring proficient or higher on the tests were 91 percent for the English portion, 80 percent for math and 71 percent for science.

The latest MCAS results also pointed to continued improvement by minority students in comparison to white students in Massachusetts.

A passing score on MCAS, short for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, is required for students to receive their high school diplomas. The state said 88 percent of students met the minimum requirements on their first try this year, up from 86 percent a year ago.

Despite that trend, the state's education commissioner, Mitchell Chester, noted that 40 percent of Massachusetts public high school graduates who enroll in the state's public colleges and universities are placed in non-credit, developmental programs to help them handle the tougher coursework.

"While I am pleased to see more than a decade of continuous improvement at grade 10, it's clear that MCAS is not providing us with the signal or rigor we need to tell us whether students are on track and ready for college-level work," Chester said.

Schools are creating new standards for college and career readiness in an effort to cope with this problem, he added.

Officials reported progress in fixing chronically underperforming public schools, announcing that 14 of 34 schools labeled as Level 4 underperforming schools in 2010 had been removed from the list after participating in a three-year turnaround program monitored by the state.

Patrick on Wednesday visited one of the schools that exited the list, the Orchard Gardens K-8 school in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. He said investments of time and money in education were among the most important the state can make.

Of the remaining 20 schools on the 2010 Level 4 list, one has since closed and four — two in Boston and one each in Holyoke and New Bedford — are in danger of slipping to Level 5, the lowest performance tier in the state's ranking system, officials said.

Level 5 schools are subject to a takeover by the state.

"Schools that once were on life support are now thriving. But even as we celebrate we know there are more schools that need our support and we pledge to be there to lift them up, said Matthew Malone, Patrick's education secretary.

The latest MCAS results also pointed to continued improvement by minority students in comparison to white students in Massachusetts.

On the 10th grade English test, for example, the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed by 19 points, and the gap between white and Latino students by 17 percent since 2007, officials said.

This article was originally published on September 18, 2013.

This program aired on September 18, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.


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