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November 4, 2003

Council: Massachusetts research shows tough standards and tests motivate high-school kids to improve

The success of Massachusetts schoolchildren overcoming initial failures on demanding standardized tests proves the value of tough academic standards and tests based on them, according to The Council's education-policy specialist.

Margarita Mayo, The Council's education-policy specialist, cited a new study of the high-school experiences of Massachusetts high-school students who graduated in 2003. That report showed that 95 percent of the class of 2003 in three major cities (Boston, Worcester, and Springfield) met that state's demanding graduation requirements - even though only 68 percent of the class passed the 10th-grade Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests when they first took them in 2001.

The report, Seizing the Day, was released Oct. 24 by Massachusetts Insight Education (MIE), a Boston-based group committed to improving student achievement through standards-based education.

"New York's business community has argued that students, teachers, parents, and schools will rise to the challenges posed by tough standards and demanding tests, and that we'll all benefit as a result," Mayo said. "This new research clearly and forcefully confirms these beliefs."

MIE said the 20,000 students who first failed the 10th-grade tests included all traditionally at-risk subgroups, including special-education students, urban and minority students, and those in vocational and technological education programs.

MIE said its study showed that most of these students eventually met graduation requirements thanks to "targeted, often individualized remedial academic assistance." It will continue reporting on results of Massachusetts's investments in remedial education in each of the next two years.

MIE analyzed more than 600 student surveys and 134 interviews with students in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield. The group said its research shows that: