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Elementary and middle school MCAS scores flat for second year

State test scores declined or were stagnant in elementary and middle grades this year, prompting state Education Commissioner David Driscoll to call for a renewed focus on the lower grades.

This is the second year in a row that student performance on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests in Grades 3-8 was flat. In contrast Grade 10 scores showed significant improvement. Driscoll said the state and local districts need to determine why the lower grade performances are stagnant and what steps can be taken to boost scores again.

"People tend to concentrate on high school results but it's clear to me that we need to also focus on our middle and elementary schools," Driscoll said this morning in a written statement. "Any sign of a decline in the lower grades is concerning, because it gets more difficult to catch up as students get older."

Overall, more than 500,000 elementary and middle school students took the exam, with students scoring the highest in English. With the exception of Grade 4, at least 58 percent of students scored in the top two categories of the test. Only 50 percent of fourth-graders scored in those two categories.

However, Driscoll said he is the most concerned with performance in thrid grade reading because the percent of students scoring in the top two categories, which for that grade level is "proficient" and "above proficient," dropped to 58 percent this year from 62 percent last year. In 2003 and 2004, 63 percent of students scored in those two categories.

In math, with the exception of third grade, less than 50 percent of students scored in the top two testing categories, "proficient" and "advanced." Statewide, more schools showed an overall decline on any of the 2006 exams, with the exception of eighth grade math and fourth grade English.

For the first time ever, all students in grades 3 – 8 took both the English and math sections of the test to comply with a new federal testing regulation. State and local school leaders say the change will enable them to better track the performance of specific students as they progress from one grade level to the next. Previously students took the English tests in only grades 3, 4, and 7, and the math exam in grades 4,6, and 8.

Posted by the Boston Globe City & Region Desk at 10:47 AM

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