Posted on September 13, 2004

Researcher: Dropouts Fuel Minority MCAS-Pass Spike

Kevin Rothstein,, Sep. 10

One in three Hispanic students and one-quarter of blacks didn’t reach the 10th grade to take the latest MCAS exam, a Boston College-affiliated researcher said, news she thinks should temper the state’s rosy view of minority achievement.

“Any claim that we’re closing the achievement gap is debatable,” said Anne Wheelock, a senior research associate at BC’s Progress Through the Education Pipeline Project. “White students are progressing much more easily out of 9th grade, and after 10 years of ed reform, this is a problem we should have been able to resolve.”

By comparing the number of students enrolled in 9th grade to the number who took the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam last spring, Wheelock found that 34 percent of Hispanics, 27 percent of blacks and just 9 percent of whites were likely either held back or dropped out.

Wheelock said those figures add more context to news earlier this week that minorities improved faster on the latest 10th-grade MCAS exam, which is a graduation requirement.

While fewer minorities passed, state officials touted the fact the percentage of black and Hispanics passing rose by 23 percentage points since 2001, nearly double the 12-point gain all students achieved.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Heidi Perlman responded to Wheelock by saying the issue of students not making it to 10th grade on time is not new.

“There is most definitely still a gap but we have made progress and we are finally trying to close the gap,” she said.