Background on Next-Gen MCAS
The Need to Build a New MCAS
A good testing system is tied directly to good teaching and learning. In Massachusetts, we set high learning standards-what a student should know and be able to do at each grade level and in each subject. Then, educators create classroom lessons and select textbooks and other resources to provide each child the best education possible.
To find out how well students understand what is being taught, educators give students local and state tests. Using test results, school districts and teachers can identify areas where students need more help, refine lesson plans, and even select different curriculum resources to help students reach high expectations.
The MCAS tests, used in concert with ambitious learning standards, have played an important role in the achievement gains of the past 20 years. Our K-12 public school students lead the nation in academic achievement and are competitive internationally. That success would not have been possible without a high-quality testing system that provides feedback on student, school, district, and state achievement and progress.
However, MCAS was not designed to measure readiness for success in college or a career after high school. In fact, more than a third of the state's public school graduates who attend Massachusetts's public colleges or universities are placed in remedial courses. The remedial rate is closer to 70 percent for two-year colleges. These courses often consume a student's financial aid, are not credit-bearing, and do not count toward graduation. Too often, these students do not graduate college on time or at all.
Today, we have a better understanding about learning progressions in mathematics, text complexity and the interplay of reading and writing, and the academic expectations of higher-education institutions and employers.
Now that we have upgraded our learning expectations over the years through revisions to our curriculum frameworks and content standards, it is time to upgrade our assessments for the next generation of students.