State education officials say 88 percent of high school sophomores passed the standardized MCAS exam on their first try this year, the same as last year, and that while achievement gaps persist statewide, they are narrowing.
"Compared to where we were seven years ago, we're on a path where our students who are the furthest behind — students of color, students from low-income backgrounds — are catching up," Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester told WBUR.
Officials said the achievement gap between white and minority students on the MCAS shrank among all grades on the language arts test. The gap also narrowed on the math test, except among fifth graders.
Still, six schools were newly designated as Level 4, or "underperforming." The schools — two in Boston, three in Springfield and one in Worcester — must develop turnaround plans or face a possible state take over.
At the same time, four schools previously designated as underperforming showed enough progress to get off that list, including the Jeremiah Burke High School in Boston, two Springfield elementary schools, and one Worcester elementary school.
Chester said the Dearborn Middle School in Boston and three other Springfield middle schools were in imminent danger of sinking from Level 4 to Level 5 and into possible receivership.
"I'm not seeing evidence that they are on an improvement trajectory," Chester said.
Lawrence is the state's only school district currently in receivership, though Chester said test scores pointed to improvement in that city.
The percentage of students in the class of 2016 who met minimum testing requirements in order to graduate — 88 percent — was unchanged from a year ago, but up from 86 percent in 2012. Ninety percent of students scored proficient or higher in English, 71 percent in math and 71 percent in science.
With reporting from the WBUR newsroom and the Associated Press.
This article was originally published on September 19, 2014.