MCAS results reflect the potential rewards of academic rigor

Results for the newly designed MCAS – or New Generation MCAS– were released last week for Grades 3-8, showing an overall decline in scores. As the Boston Globe reported, some results were “eye-popping,” including the scores for Grade 8 English, where only 49 percent either met or exceeded expectations. On the previous test, 79 percent hit the mark.

No, Massachusetts students haven’t become less intelligent, nor is the quality of teaching declining. Instead, students are being exposed to more rigorous standards, those that ultimately reflect the demands of post-secondary education and the real world. The bar is being raised, and students and teachers must work together to meet the challenges.

Our colleague Linda Noonan, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, put the challenge succinctly in the Globe story: “We know the bar needs to be aligned with real-world expectations and needs to show that students will graduate ready for the next path in their life, whether that is in college or something else.”

Soon, a more challenging MCAS will be coming to the 10th grade test, which students must pass to graduate. That, too, promises to be a painful transition. But there are rewards in the long term. As we’ve learned through our work in advancing AP STEM and English courses, many students are ready for more academic rigor and teachers are ready to raise the bar to help their students succeed.

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