Equity & Diversity

Most Students Failing MCAS Are White, Mass. Says

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 23, 2002 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Massachusetts education officials have released data that they hope will counteract what they say is a false public perception that most students in the class of 2003 who haven’t yet passed the state’s high school exit exams are members of minority groups or come from poor families.

The data, presented in several tables, show that 55 percent of students in the class of 2003 who haven’t passed the English and mathematics exams that they take for the first time in 10th grade are white.

The tables also show that a majority of students who haven’t passed the exit exams aren’t from low-income families, don’t have limited proficiency in English, and aren’t enrolled in special education classes.

Passing English and math on the 10th grade tests is a graduation requirement for the first time with the class of 2003.

“What these tables show is that the majority of students who have not yet passed both tests are white,” said Heidi B. Perlman, the director of communications for the Massachusetts Department of Education, which released the data this month. “This is important information to get out there, because there seems to be a general concern among critics of the exam that the ones who have not passed yet are mostly blacks and Hispanics and low-income students.”

Minorities Overrepresented

But Roger Rice, the executive director of Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy Inc., a nonprofit advocacy organization in Boston, countered that “all the data demonstrates is that most of the people in Massachusetts are white.”

Whites are underrepresented among those students who have failed, while blacks and Hispanics are overrepresented, according to the state education department’s data.

Whites made up 80 percent of students in the class of 2003 who were 11th graders last year, but they are only 55 percent of those who have not passed the Massachusetts exit tests. Blacks and Hispanics each constituted 8 percent of the same group of 11th graders, but blacks make up 18 percent and Hispanics make up 22 percent of students who have not passed.

Mr. Rice’s organization has joined others in filing a lawsuit that challenges the state’s testing program, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. The lawsuit, filed Sept. 19 in the federal district court in Springfield, Mass., charges that the tests discriminate against Hispanic, black, limited-English- proficient, and vocational education students and students with disabilities. (“Massachusetts Sued Over Graduation Tests,” Oct. 2, 2002.)


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion No, Love Won’t Fix Institutional Racism in Education
Racially just books are under attack in schools. Defending an anti-racist curriculum demands a deeper understanding of how power operates.
Altheria Caldera
4 min read
Photo of separated black and white chess pieces
Radachynskyi/iStock/Getty Images Plus<br/>
Equity & Diversity Spotlight Spotlight on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
This Spotlight will empower you to assess where the work still needs to be done to ensure your students and educators are represented and included.
Equity & Diversity Transgender Students and School Sports: Six Things to Know About a Raging Debate
States have considered a surge of legislation that would restrict transgender students from teams that align with their gender identity.
9 min read
Laur Kaufman, 13, of Harlingen, waves a flag at a rally against House Bill 25, a bill that would ban transgender girls from participating in girls school sports, outside the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.
Laur Kaufman, 13, of Harlingen, Texas, waves a flag at a rally at the state capitol in Austin against a bill that would restrict transgender students' access to single-sex sports teams.
Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP
Equity & Diversity Census Prompts Push for More Indigenous School Lessons
American Indians and Alaska Natives say census numbers prove that Indigenous history should get more attention in public school classrooms.
Tim Henderson, Stateline.org
7 min read
Tatanka Gibson of the Haliwa-Saponi/Nansemond Tribal Nations leads attendees in song and dance during a gathering marking Indigenous Peoples Day at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021.
Tatanka Gibson of the Haliwa-Saponi/Nansemond Tribal Nations leads attendees in song and dance during a gathering marking Indigenous Peoples Day at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia.
Matt Rourke/AP