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:
high-school tests in Massachusetts have improved students'
commitment to learning.
"Four out of five students who needed extra help were taking advantage of available programs in 2002-03-double the percentage in the previous year," MIE said in a release. "Almost half of those who had failed their tenth-grade MCAS reported applying increased effort to their schoolwork because of their desire to succeed."
Specifically, 82 percent of respondents said they had taken advantage of extra-help opportunities in an effort to pass the exam. In 2002, a MIE study showed that just 46 percent of juniors were getting the extra help.
said their teachers and state remediation programs were
both critical to their success on the MCAS. More than three
out of four students said they would recommend the remediation
programs to other students needing help.
- After receiving their first MCAS scores, 47 percent of the respondents said they began trying harder in school, and nearly a quarter indicated they were doing more homework and cutting fewer classes.