In an educational environment increasingly requiring quantitative measures of achievement and accountability, scores from standardized tests are used to “identify the strengths and weaknesses in curriculum and instruction” at the local level and to hold schools and school districts accountable with respect to “established standards for performance for districts that improve or fail to improve student academic performance.”* Educational development standards indicate that students should be able to read proficiently by the end of third grade, that is, have a wide vocabulary, comprehend, write logically, speak coherently, read fluently and understand different types of texts. Beginning in fourth grade, all these skills are necessary for them to progress with more challenging work.
In past reports, The percent of all children in the third grade who received a score of “proficient” or higher on the MCAS English language arts test was used to reflect early literacy skills achieved during formal early childhood education. However, to further align testing with Common Core Standards, in 2015 the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education began administering a new test called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). This transition from PARCC to MCAS is an ongoing process. Although many school districts are now using this test, some are continuing to use an updated version of the MCAS, which includes only some elements of the PARCC. These changes have made for a different assessment system than years past, which makes data difficult to compare not only from year-to-year but also betewen communities. As such, this indicator is not included for this year, but will be included in future Plan for Progress reports as the data become more comparable over time.