Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children


This year’s MCAS test results have been released.

And while this assessment of Massachusetts students is 25 years old, this year’s results are part of a “new generation” of testing that’s designed “to measure how a school or district is doing and what kind of support it may need,” according to a press release from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

The next-generation MCAS “is more comprehensive than the previous system and complies with the 2015 federal Every Student Succeeds Act.” This is the second year that the new MCAS has been administered, so this year’s results can only be compared to last year’s – and not to earlier years.

Students’ test scores are sorted into one of four assessment categories:

• exceeding expectations

• meeting expectations

• partially meeting expectations, and

• not meeting expectations

The year’s results are similar to last year’s, the press release notes. In English and math, “approximately 50 percent of the students who took the test scored Meeting Expectations or above.”


Third Grade Reading Matters

Here at Strategies for Children, we keep our eye on third grade reading levels, because we know that children who are struggling to read at this point are at risk of falling behind academically.

So it’s disappointing to see that only 52 percent of Massachusetts third graders fall into the top two categories of meeting expectations and exceeding expectations.


Screenshot of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website.


That percentage varies considerably from district to district: sixteen districts have fewer than 35 percent of students meeting the standard, but all districts could be doing more to bolster early literacy and language development in the earliest grades.

As Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Nonie Lesaux wrote in our 2010 report, “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success:”

“By third grade, reading struggles are strongly linked to later school difficulties, as well as behavioral problems, depression, and dysfunctional and/or negative peer relationships. What’s more, research indicates that 74 percent of children whose reading skills are less than sufficient by third grade have a drastically reduced likelihood of graduating from high school. As a result, these children are unlikely to develop the skills essential for participating fully in this knowledge-based economy and for experiencing life success.”

Recognizing the importance of third grade reading, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency into law in 2012, creating the state-level Early Literacy Expert Panel.

Since that time, many local communities have organized for early reading success. Springfield and Worcester have been recognized for their efforts to boost early literacy by the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, a national effort focused on third grade reading achievement.

How is your town doing, compared to the state average? Click here to access district-level results on the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.


Screenshot of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website.

This link is for Abington. You can choose different districts from the dropdown menu above the chart, then click the “Assessment” tab for MCAS results. To understand achievement gaps between groups of students, click MCAS Results by Subgroup.

You can also use our “Fast Facts” webpage to find your community’s third grade reading performance, as well as local demographics and available early education programs.

To learn more about next-generation MCAS data, go to DESE’s website or email Titus DosRemedios, Strategies for Children’s director of research and policy, at

We will continue to shine a light on third grade test data – the first universal measure we have of how Massachusetts children are doing – to help focus our leaders’ attention on the importance of investing in the early childhood years, from birth to third grade.