The Green Wave Gazette

The Next-Generation MCAS

A necessary testing transition in the presence of new academic challenges

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AHS Computer Lab

AHS Computer Lab

William Marquardt, with Permission

William Marquardt, with Permission

AHS Computer Lab

Nivetha Aravindan, Copy Editor

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Students in grades 3-8 were the first ones to take the newly redesigned MCAS this past spring, and the material has proven to be more challenging in comparison to previous MCAS tests. According to the Boston Globe, test scores have significantly dropped, with the largest performance gap being in Grade 8 English, where only 49 percent of the test takers were rated as meeting or exceeding expectations, in comparison to the 79 percent of test takers who scored a proficient or advanced on the old MCAS in 2014.

However, the Next-Generation MCAS is a fundamental component in ensuring that all public school students receive a quality education that prepares them to meet the demands of college and career. According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the old MCAS had not been designed to measure students’ readiness for college or career, so almost one third of graduates from Massachusetts public schools had to take remedial courses in college.

As a Level I school, Abington High School has been preparing students for the new requirements and strives to provide students with the resources they need to be successful. ”

— Nivetha Aravindan

With MCAS 2.0, students are required to form deeper levels of analysis and comparison between various texts in English and demonstrate how they arrived at answers in mathematics. The English Language Arts section consists of three long writing components: an analytical essay that compares two literary works, an argument, and a creative writing portion. Multiple choice questions test students’ abilities to not only answer questions relating to the reading, but also to identify key phrases in the text that led them to choose a specific answer.

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When asked about her opinion on MCAS 2.0, Dr. Elizabeth Gonsalves said “I do like the new MCAS, teachers are preparing students well, and the nature of college, career, and civic participation has changed, so it makes sense for the MCAS to change.” Dr. Gonsalves personally participated in two different passage selection committees for grades 9 and 11, screening the reading passages for appropriate grade level complexity, fidelity to the standards, and fairness/bias issues. She states that the flaw in the current MCAS composition tasks is that they do not require students to read, but rather use their memory. “My 10th graders have to write about a novel that they have read without being able to quote from the text at all—they have to demonstrate they can analyze literature without referring to the work of literature itself!” Dr. Gonsalves believes that earning a high school diploma should show that a student has built a solid skill base for college work, rather than merely earning enough credit for graduation, which could be earned with grades as low as a D.

As a Level I school, Abington High School has been preparing students for the new requirements and strives to provide students with the resources they need to be successful. The goal is that starting next year, every high school student will be provided with a laptop, regardless of their financial circumstances. In this way, students will be able to practice reading and taking practice exams online.

The initial drops in MCAS scores are not surprising, as it is will take time for students to adjust to more challenging academic material and practice taking tests on the computer. However, as educators modify their teaching methods and students get used to the format of the exam, the Next Generation MCAS will be fundamental in ensuring that all students are ready to face the challenges of college and career.

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The Next-Generation MCAS