Is the class half empty, or half full?
Call me pessimistic, but since when is the news that 1/4 of Massachusetts high school students won't be receiving a diploma cause for celebration? In response to studies showing "only" 24 percent of Massachusetts high school juniors continued to fail the MCAS (a standardized test mandatory for graduation), the Boston Globe reports that:
Officials pointed with pride to the flip side: in all, 76 percent, or about 48,400 juniors, have passed the MCAS, recognized as one of the nation's toughest standardized tests. The pass rate rose from 68 percent after students who failed the first time got a second chance to take it.
That's like celebrating that someone in an industrial accident has "only" lost one limb. What these proud officials are neglecting to mention is that failure rates are still much higher in cities and poorer areas (51 percent of Boston students failed, for example), Latino and black students are disproportionately failing the test, and 4,000 students dropped out between the first administration of the test and the second, which could easily account for quite a bit of the 8 percent "improvement." As the Globe notes:
Broken down by school system, the scores paint familiar portraits: Wealthy suburban districts have handfuls of students who have yet to pass, while vocational-technical schools or schools in urban areas have as many as half of their juniors flunking.
For more on the MCAS, see my previous post.