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MCAS results might sound alarming, but there's no need to panic

Posted by Alan Wirzbicki  September 20, 2011 02:51 PM

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No one in Massachusetts should panic at today’s announcement that 1,404 Massachusetts schools — a whopping 82 percent — failed to make Annual Yearly Progress toward annual proficiency targets in English and math. AYP is a blunt federal measurement tool. So blunt that the Obama administration has largely abandoned it, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is dangling waivers in front of any state that wants them. Wisely, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education refuses to dumb down the MCAS exam to make schools look good on the AYP index.

There are a few dozen schools that are in such desperate shape as to require aggressive state intervention. The others are managing pretty well overall, but likely need to concentrate on improving education for subgroups, such as special education and students with limited English language skills. Parents shouldn’t make the mistake of confusing AYP measures with the general quality of their child’s school. Nearly 90 percent of the state’s 10th graders, after all, passed their spring MCAS exams in math, English, and science. And that says a lot more about the Commonwealth’s schools than a flawed federal standard.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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