For the class of 2026 and beyond, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) has raised score requirements for its English and math exams. In the past, students had to earn a scaled score of at least 472 on English and 486 on math in order to receive a passing grade. However, now students are being asked to demonstrate an increased level of proficiency.
For the graduating classes of 2026-2030, students will need to earn an English and score of 486 or higher. And for the class of 2031 and beyond, students will need to earn a score of 500 or above in math and English.
Currently, all students in Massachusetts are required to pass science, math, and English MCAS exams to graduate high school. Because this is now combined with increased score thresholds, staff members at Plymouth North High School (PNHS) are devoting class time to preparing students for the test.
“Everything we are doing in English class…aligns with the exam,” Mrs. Michelle Terry, English Department Head, said. “It’s reading comprehension, it’s writing, it’s responding to a prompt…all worthwhile tasks.”
Ms. Angela Velino, math teacher, said, “I incorporate a lot of MCAS practice questions just organically, like in my lessons…But other than that…we will do a full week of just MCAS preparation.”
Despite these provisions, rising MCAS score requirements have the potential to elicit a higher fail rate than in years past. When a student fails an MCAS exam, Plymouth Public Schools (PPS) educators must take additional steps to ensure that said student is eligible to graduate high school.
“Typically we get test results fairly quickly and we get that information out to teachers and families so that the students have ample opportunity to retake [the MCAS exam],” Mrs. Kelly Bitinas, K-12 Mathematics Coordinator, said.
Once this communication has been established, families and staff members decide on the best way to ensure success for each student. The majority of students simply receive additional attention in their junior and senior year classes for the exam they failed. However, students who require more assistance have the opportunity to be put on an Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP), which decreases the score they need to receive on MCAS exams in order to pass.
Despite all measures implemented at PNHS and beyond, some students continue to struggle in meeting new MCAS score thresholds.
“Ideally, we make sure that our kids are meeting the standards that they need to in order to graduate high school,” Mrs. Terry said. “Sometimes, I don’t think that [MCAS] carefully accounts for that, especially for some of our struggling populations.”
“I wish that there was more done to accommodate people learning English, other than the dictionary provided on the math exam,” Ms. Velino said.
Even with these setbacks, the majority of educators in Plymouth’s school system recognize the value in standardized testing as a graduation requirement.
“I believe in standardized education, I believe in high expectations…and I understand the purposes that [MCAS] serves and how it’s meant to provide equity,” Mrs. Bitinas said.
“Every school in Massachusetts is different, so I understand the state wanting to have a benchmark to make sure that students are at the levels they need to be.” Mrs. Terry said.
Currently, action to remove MCAS as a graduation requirement or lower score requirements has yet to be taken by Massachusetts lawmakers. As a result, PPS educators will have to continue to devise and enforce procedures that guarantee adequate student performance on the exam.
This story is courtesy of the Plymouth Eagle, Plymouth North High School’s student newspaper. To read the complete first issue of the school year, click here.
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