Information on MCAS Test Results

Dear Parent,

This morning the Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary schools released the results from the next-generation MCAS tests that were given in English language arts and mathematics to students in grades 3-8 in spring 2017. Due to the new testing format and scoring, the department provided us with the explanation below regarding some important information for parents and students to understand the scaling and context of the results.

“The new MCAS assessment was created with input from teachers following a thorough review and update of our curriculum frameworks. Both the frameworks and the next-generation MCAS were developed with the active involvement of hundreds of experienced Massachusetts teachers and educators from all over the Commonwealth to ensure we provide every child with the opportunity they deserve to graduate high school ready for college or career. We are deeply grateful for their participation and expertise.

Even though Massachusetts has the highest performing public education system in the nation, we have to keep improving to remain globally competitive. Equally important, too many of our high school graduates are not fully prepared for post-secondary education or training. That’s why we embarked on this vital project to take responsibility for improving our own standards and assessments.

The next-generation MCAS is a reformatted test from the old MCAS, and the scores are not comparable to the prior tests your child has taken. On the legacy MCAS, the four scoring categories were Advanced, Proficient, Needs Improvement, and Warning/Failing. On the next-generation MCAS, the four scoring categories are Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, Partially Meeting Expectations, and Not Meeting Expectations. The new categories emphasize readiness for higher-level work at the next grade level.

Roughly half of Massachusetts grades 3-8 students are already scoring in the Meeting Expectations category or above, but many students will find that they scored in the Partially or Not Meeting Expectations categories. As you look at these scores and help your child understand them, please note:

  • The next-generation MCAS establishes high expectations to better reflect whether students are on track for the next grade level and ultimately for college and a career.
  • 2017 is the baseline year — the first year of a new assessment — and we expect that over time, more students will score Meeting Expectations or above. (When the original MCAS debuted in 1998, relatively few students scored Proficient, but that changed as students and teachers adjusted to the new expectations.)
  • Students in grades 3-8 do not face any negative consequences as a result of their scores.
  • Students in 10th grade will not begin taking the next generation MCAS until 2019, so they are not affected by any of these changes.
  • The next-generation MCAS is a new test with a different approach to assessing student performance in grades 3-8, and this year’s results cannot be compared to last year’s.
  • MCAS results are only one measure of your child’s growth and achievement. Your child’s teacher can also talk to you more broadly about your child’s academic growth and about his or her social and emotional development.
  • In some subjects and grades, fewer students scored Meeting or Exceeding Expectations this year than scored Proficient or Advanced in previous years. This does NOT mean that students learned less; it reflects the fact that the next-generation MCAS measures more rigorous standards in a different way.”

So I am sure that you are wondering how Groton-Dunstable did on the new test given the information above and the statements released in the press this morning that about 50% of students Met or Exceeded expectations and 50% did not across the state. Across the district in grades 3 – 8 in both ELA and math the district scored at least 10 points above the state average (which is at or below 50%). In some areas the difference was even more marked: in 3rd grade math we exceeded the state average by almost 20 points; in sixth grade math by more than 25 points; and in 8th grade math we exceeded the state average by over 30 points. I will be presenting the results in more detail on Wednesday, October 25th. I encourage you to attend the meeting or to watch the recording of the presentation on the local cable access station’s re-runs of the school committee meetings.

This strong performance, given it was the very first year of this test and it was a much more challenging assessment than in years past, is a testament to the staff and students of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District. While there are definitely some challenges ahead of us – which Dr. Novak will discuss in detail at the first school committee meeting in November – it is out belief that our work in the new math curriculum, new literacy curriculum, and the implementation of UDL across the district is leading us in the right direction.

Parents will receive individual student score reports in late October. After receiving your student’s report should you have any questions please contact your student’s principal and/or guidance counselor. A more detailed PowerPoint on the Next Generation MCAS can be found on the district website beginning Friday morning.

Best regards,

Laura S. Chesson, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools