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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Board of Education Votes

To:Superintendents and Charter School Leaders
From:Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll
Date:October 26, 2006


The Board of Education voted on October 24 to require all students to either reach or strive for Proficiency on MCAS.

The goal of this decision is the right one: We need to do whatever we can to encourage our students to achieve at higher levels. This change leaves the passing score at 220, but requires students who pass but haven't made it to Proficient to take courses and additional assessments that will move them in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the media vastly mischaracterized this vote. The newspapers, TV and radio have reported that the Board voted to "increase the passing score to 240." I am writing to clear up any confusion resulting from the inaccurate coverage.

New Competency Determination Regulations

Let me be clear: the Board did not increase the MCAS passing score. Instead, members voted to create an "either/or" scenario for all students. Beginning with the Class of 2010:

  • Students will be required to either meet or exceed a scaled score of 240 on both the Grade 10 ELA and Math MCAS exams; or
  • Students will be required to meet or exceed a scaled score of 220 on both the Grade 10 ELA and Math exams and fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP).

Each EPP will include, at a minimum: a review of the student's strengths and weaknesses, based on MCAS and other assessment results, coursework, grades and teacher input; the courses the student will be required to take and successfully complete in grades 11 and 12; and a description of the assessments the school will regularly administer to determine if the student is moving toward 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.

As part of their vote, the Board also reaffirmed the addition of Science, Technology and Engineering to the competency determination requirement beginning with the Class of 2010, and voted to add History beginning with the Class of 2012.

Certificate of Mastery

The Stanley Z. Koplik Certificate of Mastery was established by the Board in 1997 to recognize high academic achievement on MCAS, in high school, and in competitions and student publications. Recipients of the certificate have received four years of free tuition at any of the state's public colleges or the University of Massachusetts.

The Board made changes to the certificate on Tuesday to reposition it to clearly indicate college and career-readiness, rather than solely academic achievement.

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

  • Score Proficient or higher on the Grade 10 ELA and Math exams
  • Maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average in grades 11 and 12
  • Pass an Algebra II test that will be identified by the Department.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in writing through an assessment that will be identified by the Department.
  • 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.

The Department intends to work with the Board of Higher Education to establish incentives to strive for the repositioned Certificate of Mastery.

If you have further questions about any of these issues please contact me.

Last Updated: November 1, 2006

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