NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Massachusetts Demonstrates that Student Testing Counts

November 26, 2001

In 1993, Massachusetts made the Comprehensive Assessment System exam the cornerstone of its $7 billion Education Reform Act. The MCAS tests fourth, eighth and 10th graders in English, math and science.

Beginning with the class of 2003, all students must pass the 10th-grade English and math tests in order to graduate. Now the 2001 test scores are in and the results have reportedly stunned everyone. Observers believe the improved performance was due to the fact that tests were required for graduation.

  • Last year's 10th-graders, for whom the test did not count as a graduation requirement, performed poorly.
  • But in the latest tests, 82 percent of sophomores passed the English portion, and 72 percent passed the math portion.
  • That compares to 66 percent and 55 percent, respectively, in the previous year.
  • Moreover, 73 percent passed both portions -- a remarkable increase from the 51 percent who did so in 2000.

But roughly 60 percent or more of those who failed did so by only four points or less. They will be specially tutored and given four more chances to pass.

Experts expect that they will almost assuredly pass eventually. That means a prospective 91 percent will succeed.

Much of the progress was driven by black and Hispanic teens. While their overall scores were considerably lower than their white counterparts, experts say the likely success rates for blacks will be around 79 percent -- and 75 percent for Hispanics.

Source: Editorial, "Massachusetts Passes," Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2001.

For text (WSJ subscribers)


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