MCAS results provide vital insight into academic needs after COVID disruptions

Posted: 09/23/2021 13:22:17 PM The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System’s annual test results release has garnered litt...

Posted: 09/23/2021 13:22:17 PM

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System’s annual test results release has garnered little attention in recent years – not in 2021. With the results released this week, we get our first glimpse into how our students have been affected by them. continual interruptions in learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. And the results have been grim.

Although the MCAS results generally serve as a benchmark for the performance of schools and districts, they were not intended to fulfill this function this year. Instead, a simplified version of the tests administered this spring sought to determine the extent of the pandemic learning loss of K-12 students and how those losses disproportionately affected students based on race, socio-economic status and disability.

Due to attendance issues, varying levels of in-person and virtual learning, and other disruptions throughout the school year, this year’s results are far from perfect. Nonetheless, the results should provide a good amount of diagnostic data for teachers, schools and districts to use in developing strategies to help recover student learning losses and determine areas in need of the most intervention.

In other words, MCAS scores will serve as a complement to teachers’ own assessments and observations, and help them make the most congruent adjustments to their current learning plans to accommodate what students missed last year. This practice should not be viewed as remedial action, but rather as a “graduation” or “scaffolding” – something our teachers have mastered – that will help students return to the classroom and bring them to grade level. For example, based on the data, school leaders will be able to understand whether fourth graders in a certain school need more time for fractions, while sixth graders in a certain school need more time for fractions. others need to improve their reading comprehension.

Each year, the MCAS results provide vital school-level information about students’ academic needs, but this year the results will be invaluable in helping schools respond to student unfinished learning. Opponents of standardized testing have already taken advantage of low MCAS scores to question the validity of the test in order to scuttle it all together. But the low scores, especially this year, shouldn’t be used as an excuse to discredit the test. This is to be expected. Additionally, since there is no consequence for accountability for scores, school districts will not be penalized – and should not be criticized – for any decline in performance.

However, school districts should be held accountable for how they use MCAS data to help students catch up. Districts received the scores in early July, so they already know the extent of the learning loss. Having and using this data over the summer to plan programs for the new school year should be a big win for students and their families. Likewise, parents need to know how their children are doing, not with anecdotes but with the objective information provided by MCAS scores.

At the start of this school year, families should find out how their districts have used this data over the past two months to prepare teachers for the upcoming school year. This will allow parents to work with teachers on what will best meet the needs of their children.

In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has an obligation to use MCAS data to educate the public about the impact of the pandemic on students, and to provide information and analysis that will guide the how future education leaders and decision-makers will respond. pandemics and other significant disruptions to typical schooling. DESE is also expected to undertake an analysis to follow the cohort of students before and after the pandemic, disaggregating the data by mode of learning – in person, distance and hybrid – and by student demographics.

Districts across the state receive substantial federal COVID relief funding coupled with state assistance, including through the Student Opportunities Act. State and districts have a critical role to play in directing this funding towards sustainable programs that improve student outcomes. These resources will allow districts to target their funds to students most in need of assistance and to proven strategies for accelerating student learning.

Ed Lambert is executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education.

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Newsrust - US Top News: MCAS results provide vital insight into academic needs after COVID disruptions
MCAS results provide vital insight into academic needs after COVID disruptions
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