Latest MCAS scores are troubling

The state released its latest MCAS results on Tuesday, and the scores seem alarming.

According to the Boston Globe, 61 percent of 10th graders statewide met or exceeded expectations on the new, more rigorous English exam, while the percentage was 59 percent on the tougher math exam put in place. Both percentages were well below the levels from 2018, when 91 percent of 10th graders scored proficient or advanced on the old English MCAS and 78 percent scored at that level on the old math test.

Luckily for the students, the state for the time being has is grading on a steep curve to maintain the same pass rate as in previous years. According to the Globe, that meant setting  the passing score at the upper end of the “not meeting expectations” category, the lowest of the four categories. As a result, 87 percent of students passed the English, math, and science MCAS tests, the same percentage as last year.

“The lower bar will be in effect for at least two years, and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will consider a request Tuesday to keep it there for a third year,” the Globe reported. “Eventually, the state wants to raise the bar so it reflects what students actually need to know to do well in college.”

Jeff Riley, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said he wants to slowly transition to the new testing system.

“We’re giving folks a little breathing room as we all figure this out,” said Riley in a phone call with reporters Monday. “I think the switch over to the next generation is one where I kind of want to give folks time to get grounded in it.”

The Globe concludes the new test is just plain harder than the old one, so scores dropped. That’s a logical conclusion, but one could also argue that teachers were used to teaching to the old test, and now they’re having to shift their approach with the new test.

By the way, the Globe’s glass-half-empty coverage of the test results was quite different from the way other news outlets covered them.  The WBUR headline said “latest scores on new state test show some improvement — but racial gaps remain.” The Telegram & Gazette reported that MCAS scores showed little change across central Massachusetts. And MassLive reported that Massachusetts schools are seeing a modest increase in test scores.

Maybe it’s time to simplify the way these test scores are interpreted, so everyone’s on the same page.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

House Speaker Robert DeLeo floats an idea for passing the long-delayed hands-free driving bill — pass the hands-free part now and leave the more controversial issue of collection of demographic data until later. (State House News)

Sen. Nick Collins shares his personal story of searching around Methadone Mile for his cousin as he backs legislation that would allow authorities to involuntarily hold someone on belief that they are in the throes of a dangerous addiction, even without a court order.  (WBUR)

Sen. Eric Lesser will convene a hearing of the economic development committee he co-chairs in Springfield to consider a bill he filed that would pay people up to $10,000 to relocate to one of four Western Mass. counties. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston launches a campaign against age discrimination. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump personally ordered the withholding of nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine shortly before he is said to have pressured Volodymyr Zelensky, the country’s president, to investigate the son of Joe Biden. (Washington Post) William Weld, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, calls Trump’s actions “treason, pure and simple.” (MassLIve) Rep. Stephen Lynch said the allegations could tip him into the camp supporting the initiation of impeachment proceedings. (Boston Herald)

ELECTIONS

Alex Morse releases eight years of his personal tax returns. His opponent in the Democratic primary for Congress, Richard Neal, hasn’t released his returns. (MassLive)

Newton City Councilor Becky Grossman becomes the first person to jump in the race for the Fourth Congressional District seat Joe Kennedy is giving up to run for Senate since his announcement. (Boston Globe

Election Day voter registration is good for democracy, says Jonathan Cohn of Progressive Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

Environmental activists are assembling a $5 million effort to support Sen. Edward Markey’s re-election bid, while trade unions were quick to line up behind Rep. Joseph Kennedy III after he formally joined the Senate race on Saturday. (State House News Service at Herald News) 

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

New Bedford’s city council approved the applications of marijuana dispensaries Southcoast Apothecary, Tree Beard Inc., and Metro Harvest Inc.. (Standard-Times)

An arcane pension plan has the state’s last brickyard on the ropes. (Boston Globe)

Truro state Sen. Julian Cyr will put his experience working in the family restaurant business to good use on the new Restaurant Promotion Commission. (Cape Cod Times) 

EDUCATION

The results are in from last spring’s new 10th-grade version of the MCAS standardized test, and the 74 percent who passed on their first attempt is unchanged from the percentage who passed the old test last year. (WBUR) But that is largely because state officials lowered the passing bar on the new, more rigorous test to give schools time to adjust to the higher standard. (Boston Globe) The results were mixed for Boston, which is still home to a large share of the state’s lowest-performing schools. (Boston Herald)

UMass Amherst will be home to the papers of Daniel Ellsberg, the government analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers revealing the deception and futility of the US war effort in Vietnam. (Boston Globe)

Hampshire College returns to business as usual in admissions. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute says Gov. Deval Patrick and Gov. Charlie Baker both sold students short by going along with a change to new, weaker English standards for Massachusetts K-12 schools. (CommonWealth)

Marshfield students and others across the South Shore will participate in “Hello Week,” a week of activities and discussions meant to raise awareness about social isolation. (Patriot Ledger) 

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A third Massachusetts resident dies from EEE. (MassLive)

ARTS/CULTURE

The statue of Boston Bruins hockey legend Bobby Orr is moved to The Hub, the new entrance to TD Garden and North Station. (CommonWealth)

A nonprofit coffee shop has opened in the lobby of the Grace Church in West Bridgewater, with all proceeds going to other worldwide nonprofits. (Brockton Enterprise) 

Matthew Trueman, a Canadian artist, is building a wooden gramophone-like structure on Gloucester’s Rocky Neck. (Gloucester Daily Times)

TRANSPORTATION 

Dustup at the Fiscal and Management Control Board. Joseph Aiello, the board chair, calls the T’s efforts to improve bus infrastructure “timid.” (CommonWealth)

T notes: Some interesting lessons from Toronto’s vision for commuter rail….T is launching digital advertising billboards at highway locations and calling them “outdoor information panels” …New vendors hired for The RIDE. (CommonWealth)

Lynn Mayor Thomas McGee and lawmakers from the area press MBTA leaders for more frequent commuter rail service at subway prices. The current fare from Lynn to Boston is $7 one way; they want $2.40. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Modern windows can help prevent the harmful ultrafine particles spewed out from tailpipes from getting into homes, and filters can help take them out of the air inside. (WGBH)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Gov. Charlie Baker calls on Congress to allow marijuana banking services. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins is part of a small group of reform-minded prosecutors nationwide who are stirring the pot and drawing strong blowback from police and others in law enforcement. (Boston Globe

Jonathan Acevedo is charged with running a major drug smuggling ring in Springfield and Chicopee while he was under house arrest and wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet. (MassLive)

Lauren Perrin pleaded guilty to stealing an elderly patient’s morphine while she was a nurse at an Amesbury facility. (Eagle-Tribune)

Brian Watts, a 24-year-old Ipswich man who is suspected of selling fentanyl pills to a 46-year-old man who later died of an overdose, pled guilty to drug possession charges and was sentenced to one year of incarceration. (Salem News)

MEDIA

Ryan Craig, the editor and publisher of a small weekly in Kentucky, is now convinced that weeklies are an endangered species of news. It’s already happening here in Massachusetts. But James Fallows thinks small town newspapers can be viable businesses, just not the super profit generators private equity groups expect from their holdings (The Atlantic)

The Boston Globe claims progress in its union talks on a new contract, but union officials say the progress is only on relatively minor issues. (CommonWealth)