If your child's MCAS student achievement test scores plunged this year, stay calm.
New data out Wednesday morning show scores on the new statewide standardized tests fell across the board among the first group of elementary and middle schoolers who took the test, dubbed "MCAS 2.0."
The number of third-graders who met or exceeded state expectations on the new math test fell by more than 20 percentage points, with smaller drops in other grades.
State education leaders hope to head off parental panic with letters home that explain that lower scores won't be held against students — and that the test's "2.0" nickname may be misleading.
This is a brand-new — and more difficult — assessment, says Secretary of Education Jim Peyser.
"This is a new test, there are new performance standards," he said. "Comparisons with the past are difficult and, really, should not be made at all."
This year's scores will serve as a new baseline to which future test-takers will be compared under the state's new education plan.
Peyser said that's the population Massachusetts is trying to target with this tougher test, given that a third of the state's students who go on to college wind up needing remedial classes that often cost money but earn no credit.
"We are clearly sending signals to students that they're ready for post-secondary education when in fact they are not," he said. "And so we need to make some changes."
MCAS test scores are among the factors the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education consider before declaring a school in need of state oversight. Many urban high schools, including Brighton and Excel High in Boston, have been slow to turn around under that supervision.
But those schools do have time to prepare for the tougher exam: high school students won't take their own high-stakes version of the new MCAS until spring of 2019.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that a smaller percentage of third graders "passed" the new MCAS math test. The new assessment doesn't use a pass/fail metric, measuring student performance against state expectations. We regret the error.
This article was originally published on October 18, 2017.