Low MCAS Test Scores Reveal More Than Just Levels of Underperformance

Massachusetts revealed the results of the Massachuetts Comprehensive Assement System, a statewide standardized test, on Friday morning, categorizing six new schools as ‘underperforming.’

This standardized test has three purposes: to improve cirriculum; to evaluate the student, the school and the district; and to determine student eligibility for a high school diploma. Two of these institutions that did not reach the sufficient academic levels were Boston schools: Dorchester Academy and the Henry Grew Elementary School in Hyde Park. The other four are located in Springfield and Worcester.

But what do the numbers really tell us?

At first glance, we may want to blame the educators and their teaching methods. They are primarily responsible for the material that each student learns everyday. However, looking deeper into this issue, each of the six new schools contain students with underpreviledged families.

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The National School Lunch Program exists in all six underperforming schools. To be elligible for this program, which includes free lunch or a reduced lunch costing no more than 40 cents, a family of four must have an average income of $21,710.

Public schools in Massachusetts average about 35 percent of their students who participate in the lunch program. 73 percent of students at Dorchester Academy and 86 percent of students at Henry Grew Elementary School participate. Obviously, these numbers are way above the state average. The four other underperforming schools also have around the same percentage as the two Boston based schools. These underperforming schools are in poorer areas and neighborhoods making this look like the classic case of poor students not getting the quality education they deserve.

With talks about getting rid of the MCAS for younger students all together and implementing new computer based testing, education officials believe the new tests will give a more accurate picture of the academic level each school is at. But with less funding coming from lower income areas, the new testing system might not change much of anything in regards to academics.

Education commissioners have started threatening these consistency underperforming schools and believe that interventions may help. However, with teachers leaving the school system and student-to-teacher ratios increasing, things don’t seem to be getting better. The Boston Globe reported that John McDonough, Boston Public School’s interim superintendent, was not surprised that Dorchester Academy and Henry Grew came out as ‘underperforming’. He stated that these two institutions were among a variety of others that were identified as being in need for interventions.

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It is clear that low income families attending these low budget schools have a direct correlation with falling test scores. Boston seems to understand the problem but it looks like this fix won’t happen in time for the morning Monday bell.

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