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Mass. students lead nation in reading and math

Massachusetts students in grades 4 and 8 ranked first or tied for first among all states on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in reading and mathematics, according to test results released October 19. While Massachusetts scores have been high in recent years, this is the first time the state ranks first on both tests in both grades.

MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau said that MTA preK-12 members should be "extremely proud" of their successes. "Their hard work is paying off," she said.

Nationwide, scores remained relatively flat on the reading tests and showed some increase on the mathematics tests. That trend held true in Massachusetts, where the gains in mathematics have been substantial over the past 13 years. The percentage scoring at the Proficient or Advanced levels on the mathematics test more than doubled in grade 4, from 23 percent in 1992 to 49 percent in 2005. In grade 8, the scores went from 23 percent in 1992 to 43 percent in 2005.

In reading, the scores in grade 4 went from 36 percent in 1992 to 44 percent in 2005. In grade 8 they rose from 38 percent 1998 to 44 percent in 2005.

In a press release issued today, Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll said, "This recognition is a great tribute to the hard work our students and teachers have done in Massachusetts.  Unfortunately, while we are leading the nation as a state, we are still facing an unacceptable achievement gap between our white and minority students.  We still have an enormous amount of work left to do to get every student in this Commonwealth to Proficient."

Boudreau noted that multiple strategies and additional resources are needed to make substantial progress in closing the achievement gap. Some of MTA’s priorities for narrowing the gap include:

  • Targeting assistance and resources to schools that have consistently struggled to meet state and district standards.
  • Involving classroom teachers from the start in developing strategies to improve curriculum and instruction.
  • Providing struggling schools and districts with the resources needed to give teachers additional time to develop these new teaching strategies.
  • Requiring all districts to provide strong induction and mentoring programs for new teachers.
  • Reducing class sizes, where necessary.
  • Extending learning time for students who need a longer school day or year.
  • Educating the whole child by providing all students with enrichment and extracurricular activities, as well as instruction in core academic subjects.

"State funding for education is still more than $400 million below the level it had reached in 2002, when you adjust for inflation and changes in enrollment," said Boudreau. "The state should restore those funds and implement focused strategies to help students who are lagging behind the farthest."

For more information on the state’s results and to view the full Massachusetts report, visit www.doe.mass.edu/mcas.