Published: January 6, 2005
Standards and Accountability: Massachusetts now requires a school report card for all schools, not just those receiving federal Title I money for disadvantaged students.
Massachusetts is one of six states that have clear and specific standards in every grade span in English, mathematics, science, and social studies/history.
The state has tests based on those standards at the elementary, middle, and high school levels for English and math, and at the elementary and middle school levels for science.
The state does not have a standards-based test in social studies/history at the elementary, middle, or high school level.
One of the strengths of the testing system is that it uses a variety of test items.
Massachusetts is one of 19 states that use multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response questions in English and other subject-matter tests in every grade span.
The state has a well-rounded accountability system. Schools that are rated low-performing receive help. Schools consistently rated as low-performing or failing are penalized. The state also provides cash rewards to high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Massachusetts ensures that its prospective teachers demonstrate subject-matter knowledge, not by completing a state-set minimum amount of coursework in the subjects they plan to teach, but by passing content-area licensure exams.
Participants in the state’s alternative-route programs for entry into the profession must pass the same assessments before they take charge of their own classrooms.
But the state does not require performance assessments, such as team evaluations or portfolios, for all teachers to gain a more advanced stage of licensure.
Massachusetts has professional-development standards, but no longer earmarks money for professional development or mentoring for new teachers.
The state provides aid in the form of competitive grants that may be used by districts for professional development.
The state’s school profiles include some information on teacher qualifications.
The state also uses its five-year program-approval process to label low-performing teacher education programs.
School Climate: Massachusetts has a charter school law that is rated strong by the Center for Education Reform. The state also earns high marks for most indicators of student engagement, parent involvement, and school safety, based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey.
Ninety-four percent of 4th graders and 92 percent of 8th graders attend schools where administrators report that physical conflicts are not a problem or are only a minor problem—a higher percentage than in most other states.
Massachusetts loses points because the state does not have a class-size-reduction policy and does not include class-size information on school report cards.
Furthermore, the state has not adopted a policy or program designed to reduce school bullying and has not instituted specific penalties for students who commit acts of violence.
Equity: Massachusetts has one of the lowest grades for resource equity of the 50 states. The state does poorly on two of the three equity indicators, and performs just average on the third.
Massachusetts ranks 46th on both the McLoone Index and the coefficient of variation.
The state’s coefficient of variation of 18.6 shows there are wide disparities in revenue across districts in the state. The bright spot for Massachusetts is its wealth-neutrality score. The wealth-neutrality score indicates only a slight positive relationship between local property wealth and state and local revenue.
Spending: With a 7.6 percent increase in spending from the previous year, Massachusetts spent $8,727 per pupil in the 2001-02 school year.
That is well above the national average of $7,734 per pupil and puts the state 13th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The state also does well on other indicators of spending, ranking 10th on the spending index. Ninety percent of students in Massachusetts are in school districts spending at least the national average.
Massachusetts spends 3.6 percent of its total taxable resources on education: The national average is 3.8 percent.
Vol. 24, Issue 17, Page 121