Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Go to Selected Program Area
Massachusetts State Seal
News School/District Profiles School/District Administration Educator Services Assessment/Accountability Family & Community  
 Student Assessment  Accountability, Partnership, & Assistance  Compliance/Monitoring >  

Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Contact:JC Considine 781-338-3112

Gains Made by 5th & 10th Graders Highlight 2011 MCAS Results

Some narrowing of proficiency gaps seen as African American and Hispanic/Latino students improve on 5 of 7 English language arts exams

MALDEN - The Patrick-Murray Administration's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today announced the statewide results of the 2011 MCAS exams, showing that fifth-grade students made four-points gains in the percent scoring Proficient or higher in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics since last year, and 10th graders improved their ELA performance by six percentage points a year after a slight decline.

"I am encouraged by these results and particularly the continued progress of our high school students," said Governor Deval Patrick. "We are on the right track but still have more work ahead to improve outcomes and close achievement gaps for all students."

"Improving access to high quality education is a top priority for our administration," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "We will continue to work towards closing the achievement gap and strengthening our schools so all students can achieve academic excellence and access greater opportunities beyond high school."

Overall, 87 percent of 10th graders last year (class of 2013) met the state's minimum testing requirements to earn a high school diploma after their first attempt, up from 83 percent two years ago (class of 2011) and 86 percent last year (class of 2012). At grades 3–8, students made one to six-point gains in the percent scoring Proficient or higher on four of seven ELA tests (grades 5, 7, 8, 10) and one to four percentage point gains on three of seven math tests (grades 3, 5, 8).

Since last year, African American and Hispanic/Latino students improved their performance on five of seven ELA tests (grades 4, 5, 7, 8 and 10). Consequently, African American students narrowed the achievement gap with white students by two to six percentage points at all five of those grade levels, and Hispanic/Latino students narrowed the gap with white students at four of the grade levels (4, 7, 8, 10) by one to three percentage points.

At the same time, ELA performance overall saw one percentage point declines at grades 4 and 6 and a two percentage point decline at grade 3. Despite the slight decline at grade 3, the overall percent of students scoring Proficient or higher the past two years (63 percent in 2010, 61 percent in 2011) remains greater than at any other time over the past six years.

"I am pleased with the continued strength of our high school results and with the gap narrowing ELA progress," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "While our results continue to edge up, the pace is not as consistent and strong as I would like. One of the cornerstones of our Race to the Top initiative is to improve outcomes in literacy and mathematics across the grades. To achieve this, we must provide schools with the tools and supports they need to ensure that every child is accessing a high quality education."

At the heart of the state's Race to the Top proposal is an investment in six key goals aimed at closing proficiency gaps and improving outcomes for all students. Those six goals are: (1) grade 3 literacy performance; (2) grade 8 numeracy performance; (3) college and career readiness; (4) educator effectiveness; (5) turning around lowest performing schools and districts; and (6) data use. Over the past year, several key milestones were achieved, including the first year of turnaround efforts in the 35 lowest performing schools in the state and the adoption of the new Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in English Language Arts and Mathematics, Incorporating the Common Core Standards and new educator evaluation regulations by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

"Governor Patrick has made clear that our goal is to have the best schools in the world," said Secretary of Education Paul Reville. "Today's statewide results are encouraging, but also point to additional work that we must and will undertake in order to make our high aspirations a reality for all of our students. I applaud the hard work and success of our students, teachers, and administrators, and look forward to making further gains towards the Governor's goal."

The 2011 MCAS results in math and in science and technology/engineering (STE) varied. In math, students made a four-point gain at grade 5 and one-point gains at grades 3 and 8, coupled with one-point declines at grades 4 and 6 and a two-point decline at grade 7. Performance at grade 10 was unchanged from a year ago. In STE, 10th graders improved by two percentage points since last year, while there was a one percentage point decline at grade 8 and a three percentage point decline at grade 5.

Other statewide results include:

  • The largest statewide gains in the percent of students scoring Proficient or higher were made at grade 10 ELA: +6 for all students (from 78 to 84 percent); +9 for African American students (from 60 to 69 percent); +6 for Asian students (from 81 to 87); +7 for Hispanic/Latino students (from 56 to 63 percent); +5 for white students (from 84 to 89 percent); +11 for students with disabilities (from 38 to 49 percent); +8 for English language learners (from 19 to 27 percent); and +10 for low income students (from 59 to 69 percent).
  • A greater percentage of students in every subgroup at grade 5 (African American; Hispanic/Latino; Asian; white; special education; English language learner; low income) scored Proficient or higher on ELA and math.
  • Overall, students made a two-point gain in the percent scoring Proficient or higher in STE at grade 10 (from 65 to 67 percent). African American and Hispanic/Latino students as well as students with disabilities made three percentage point gains, while Asian students, English language learners and low income students made four percentage point gains. White students improved by one percentage point.
  • Every student subgroup in the class of 2013 made improvements in the percent who earned a passing score of 220 (Needs Improvement) or higher on all three tests (ELA, math, STE) after their first attempt when compared to their counterparts in the class of 2012: 73 percent of African American students, up from 70 percent; 68 percent of Hispanic/Latino students, up from 66 percent; 90 percent of Asian students, up from 87 percent; 92 percent of white students, up from 91 percent; 61 percent of students with disabilities, up from 58 percent; 43 percent of English language learners, up from 37 percent; and 75 percent of low income students, up from 72 percent.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) was first administered in 1998. Students in the class of 2003 were the first required to pass the grade 10 ELA and math exams to earn a high school diploma. The STE exam was added to the state graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2010.

District and school MCAS results are still being compiled and will be released publicly later this month along with district and school Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results. For more information on the MCAS exam or to view the full statewide report, visit

Last Updated: September 8, 2011
E-mail this page| Print View| Print Pdf  
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Search · Public Records Requests · Site Index · Policies · Site Info · Contact ESE