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Old 04-21-2008, 12:03 PM
 
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We are trying to understand what the MCAS ratings mean about a school district? We got all confused by it as some of the districts, which we have been told to have great schools, have quite low rankings on MCAS e.g. Newton and Weston. Could someone post more information about this? Is it as good as saying MCAS results~(approx. equal to) SAT results? If yes, then it is a good yardstick to measure schools with.

Here are the school ratings for MA (2007):
Top-scoring schools on the 2007 10th-grade MCAS exams - The Boston Globe - Boston.com

And here are the school district ratings for MA (2007):
Top-scoring districts on the 2007 10th-grade MCAS exams - The Boston Globe - Boston.com


Thanks
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Old 04-21-2008, 05:43 PM
 
Location: Westwood, MA
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I would say the MCAS is a yardstick for measuring the students in a district, which must be remembered is different than how effectively the school will do in preparing your children. It is a rough guide, but should be taken with a grain of salt.
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Old 04-22-2008, 12:36 AM
 
Location: Chicago
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An individual student's MCAS score has about a 99% correlation to SATs scores, that's just the nature of standardized testing. However that doesn't really work when analyzing a whole district. MCAS scores can reflect of how much time the school takes preparing students, what the demographics of the student body are, dropout rates etc, and you can never really know how those things effect a school's score.

So you can only use MCAS scores as a very loose guide to the quality of a school district. Horrible MCAS scores will probably indicate a bad district and great score a good district, but there's a ton of leeway.

Last edited by wickedripeplum; 04-22-2008 at 01:37 AM..
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Old 04-22-2008, 04:31 AM
 
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MCAS scores have no correlation to the effectiveness of a teacher or school district in my opinion. It merely shows how well students can retain certain information. It's just a test folks- not an evaluation of a school district as a whole.

When I was in school (not in MA) we prepared for standardized tests by taking 'prep' tests and going over the same examples- over and over. Sure- after 2 weeks you tend to retain those types of questions/formulas.

Actually visiting a school, reading the local newspaper, and speaking to parents, teachers and people in the community is the only real way to get a more accurate picture of the school system.
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Old 04-22-2008, 01:57 PM
 
Location: Metrowest, MA
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Only Boston Globe ranks (not the state)... but if you like ranking... then it is for you... If you look back the past 4-5 years, it may give you a better understanding that ranking change from year to year. Hence, beware of sensitivity.

How do Boston Globe rank a district or school? It is based on % of kids that is in Advanced or Proficient categories. To keep all of the kids in the Advanced and Proficient categories, it is not easy. Hence, ranking high is a good thing. However, a few special needs or non-English speaking kids can swing the ranking widely. A rank of 6 is probably better than a rank of 100. However, Is rank of 6 better than a 15? I'm not sure.

For example, Harvard has no student in Need Improvement and Warning in English. Hence a score of 100 and rank #1. With 5% in those unwanted categories, Weston quickly drop to rank #6. With 8% of kids in those unwanted categories, Lexington dropped to rank #20. As you can see, a small school system (~150 kids), 5 kids can change ranking from 6 to 20. Many school districts have more than 10% of kids in either or both special needs and non-english speaking kids.

As other says, it is a rough measurement. If your kid is weak, these high ranking districts implies the district tried very hard to make your kid proficient? If your kid still is not proficient in that school district, what does that mean? Is that the school district's fault or your kid?

-------- Rank %Adv %Prof %NI %Warn #Stu Score
Harvard 1 65 35 0 0 107 100
Weston 6 51 44 4 1 160 95
Lexington 20 51 41 6 2 511 92
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Old 04-23-2008, 09:14 AM
 
Location: Beautiful New England
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School rankings are valuable tools in determing educational quality, but they are misinterpreted and misunderstood. Here’s how I interpret school quality and test scores:

High test scores = school quality + intelligence of the kids in the schools + academic motivation of kids in the schools + everything else

Take away any of the independent variables in the above equation (school quality, intelligence, motivation) and test scores will likely lag.

Low test scores for a school are likely to be an indication that any (or all) of those three factors are lagging. For example, one could have a good school and smart kids but if they aren’t motivated then the result will likely be lower scores. The kids could be smart and motivated but if it’s a bad school then scores lag. Of course, it *could* also be something else, but the likelihood is that it’s one of the three key factors.

Of course, there are variables that affect those three factors:

School quality = teaching ability/quality + teacher dedication + administration + resources + everything else

Good schools are made up of quality dedicated teachers, an efficient and productive administration, adequate resources, and everything else. Again, take away one of these factors and school quality is likely to suffer.

The intelligence of kids in school is a function of health/well-being of kids + everything else.

The academic motivation of kids is a function of socio-economic status [SES] background + social culture (including parental involvement) + everything else. If one (or all) of these indicators is problematic, the chances for lower academic motivation increases.

All of these various factors come into play in driving school quality and/or test scores.

One final note: one factor not included in the above analysis, and one that is significant in some locales, is language differences. ESL often poses a significant impediment.
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Old 04-24-2008, 10:10 AM
 
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Default Thanks

Thanks Smarty and professorsenator. I agree with both of you on your analysis. And partially agree with other posters who are saying that these are meaningless. Well there is a meaning to them (according to Ma DOE, there is a correlation between MCAS scores and SAT scores) and that is why they are laying so much emphasis on this. I don't know how true that is as they are the ones who designed it, so they might be biased. But from own experience, scholastic tests are usually good for you and should be encouraged, etc. Instead of giving excuses like that the child is good in *other* things and is not well suited for these irrelevant tests.

Thanks again, it did help me understand (and a call to MA DOE in malden) more about MCAS.
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Old 04-24-2008, 12:31 PM
 
Location: Chicago
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IMO problem with MCAS is that they do correlate with SAT scores and they're meant to do two different things. SATs are meant to finely rank students, MCAS are supposed make sure all students have achieved a basic skill level. If MCAS finely rank students (which they do) then there's something wrong with them.
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Old 04-24-2008, 02:09 PM
 
Location: Beautiful New England
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No test score is definitive, but SAT and MCAS scores are very useful and powerful indicators of educational achievement. Though they are not prefect predictors, standardized test scores are the most POWERFUL (and, therefore, best) predictors of academic success.
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Old 04-26-2008, 01:07 PM
 
Location: Marietta, GA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NY'er lost in MA View Post
MCAS scores have no correlation to the effectiveness of a teacher or school district in my opinion. It merely shows how well students can retain certain information. It's just a test folks- not an evaluation of a school district as a whole.

When I was in school (not in MA) we prepared for standardized tests by taking 'prep' tests and going over the same examples- over and over. Sure- after 2 weeks you tend to retain those types of questions/formulas.
This argument has been used time and again, especially by the teacher union types and those who don't want to hold teachers accountable for poor scores and children graduating high school who can't read or do basic math. MCAS is just a barometer of basic competency.

If children are taught properly and learn the material, then they'll be prepared for the test. If they get good scores on the test, that is a measure of whether or not they know the basics of the material. The converse is also true, so children who score poorly don't know even the baiscs and obviously haven't been taught well or just don't have the requisite skills to receive a diploma.

To say scores have "no correllation to the effectiveness of a teacher or school district" is absurd. I just can't understand that POV.
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