Governor Patrick announced statewide 2010 MCAS results earlier today, and the news was good. The number of 10th graders scoring proficient or above in both English and math has almost doubled since passing the MCAS became a graduation requirement in 2003. More than half of seventh and eighth graders scored proficient or above in math. And, given Strategies for Children’s focus on early education and reading proficiency, we took particular note of third grade reading scores, which increased to 63%, up from 57% last year. Although the achievement gap narrowed, 57% of third graders from low-income families scored below proficient. We applauded the results and cautioned against complacency in a news release and statement, a copy of which appears below. District results are due soon.
BOSTON (September 7, 2010) – Strategies for Children, Inc., applauds the hard work of students and teachers throughout the commonwealth, resulting in the strong gains made on the 2010 MCAS. Across the state, 63% of third graders scored proficient or above in reading, up from 57% in 2009. The task now is to build on this progress to reach the 37% of Massachusetts third graders – including 57% of low-income children – who are not yet proficient readers. Three-quarters (74%) of these children, research says, will continue to struggle in school, greatly reducing their chances of finishing high school, attending college or contributing to the state’s knowledge-based economy.
“Massachusetts is headed in the right direction. In order to improve reading for all children, we as a state must continue to strengthen the early language and other skills young children acquire that form the basis for later literacy and school success,” said Margaret Blood, president and founder of Strategies for Children. “To close the achievement gap, we must act on the evidence that it exists well before children enter school. We must ensure that all children have access to high-quality early learning environments.”
In June, Strategies for Children released “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” a report it commissioned from nationally known literacy expert Nonie Lesaux at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In it, Lesaux outlined strategies for improving children’s language and literacy development, from birth to age 9. The state has begun to build an educational continuum through the creation in 2008 of the education secretariat, comprised of the Departments of Early Education and Care, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Higher Education. The recently enacted “Act Relative to the Achievement Gap” and the state’s successful Race to the Top application include provisions related to early education.
Strategies for Children urges state leaders to further build on this infrastructure by instituting developmentally appropriate assessments that determine children’s status as emerging readers well before the third grade MCAS; ensuring that children have access to affordable high-quality early education and care; making sure that professional development and training for early educators and primary grade teachers focus on language acquisition and literacy; and supporting family and community engagement in language and literacy development.