New MCAS Regulations Require All Students To Strive For Proficiency- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

New MCAS Regulations Require All Students To Strive For Proficiency

MALDEN - Students in the class of 2010 and beyond will need to either reach proficiency or prove they have taken steps to get there before earning their competency determination, the Board of Education decided on Tuesday.

The Board voted 7 to 2 to approve the new regulations, reinforcing that proficiency - not just passing - be the goal for all students.

The new regulations create an "either/or" scenario: Beginning with the class of 2010, students will need to either score a minimum of 240 (Proficient) on the English and Math MCAS exams, or score at least a 220 (Needs Improvement) and complete an "Educational Proficiency Plan" before they can qualify for a high school diploma.

The Board also approved amendments to the Certificate of Mastery to create an additional incentive for students to strive for proficiency and beyond both in the classroom and on MCAS.

"We have largely succeeded in ensuring that all high school graduates in the Commonwealth acquire certain basic skills in reading, writing and math," said Board Chairman James Peyser. "However, we have not yet ensured that all high school graduates are ready for success in college or the global labor market. We must set our sights higher."

Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll agreed.

"The numbers show that a great majority of our students are already at Proficient, and we've got take the necessary steps to help more reach that goal," he said. "This is a fair and realistic way to get us there."

The vote was taken three months after the Board put the proposals out for public comment. The Board made several changes based on the submitted comments, most significantly shifting the first year of implementation to impact the Class of 2010 instead of the Class of 2009.

According to the new regulations, students who score between 220 and 240 will have a unique Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP) for each content area in which he or she did not score at least a 240. Each one will include:

  • A review of the student's strengths and weaknesses
  • The courses the student will be required to take and successfully complete in grades 11 and 12 in the relevant content area
  • A description of the assessments the school will administer to the student annually to ensure he or she is making progress toward proficiency.

The Board agreed to review the regulations again no later than 2008. At that time they will also review how successful the Educational Proficiency Plans have been, student performance on the MCAS exams in 2007 and 2008, and work with the Board of Higher Education to develop additional incentives to encourage more students to achieve proficiency.

In 2006, 84 percent of 10th graders scored at least a 220 on the English and Math MCAS exams, earning their competency determination on their first try. Statewide 59 percent of 10th graders scored Proficient or higher on both exams, up from 54 percent in 2005 and just 38 percent in 2001. This means that if the regulations were in place this year, about 40 percent of students would require EPPs.

The changes to the Certificate of Mastery reposition the certificate to indicate college and career-readiness. Until now it is has been used to distinguish only high academic achievement.

To earn the Certificate under the new requirements, students must:

  1. Score Proficient or higher on the Grade 10 ELA and Math exams
  2. Maintaining at least a 3.0 grade point average in grades 11 and 12.
  3. Pass an Algebra II test that will be identified by the Department.
  4. Demonstrate proficiency in writing through an assessment that will be identified by the Department.
  5. Either complete a high school curriculum designed to prepare students for college- and career-readiness, or earn a Certificate of Occupational Proficiency.

The Board renamed the existing Certificate of Mastery the "Certificate of Mastery with Distinction," and maintained the existing requirements to qualify.

As part of their overall vote the Board also agreed to add the Science, Technology and Engineering exam to the competency determination requirement beginning with the class of 2010, and to add the History exam for the class of 2012.

Last Updated: October 24, 2006

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