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Coronavirus Pandemic Impact on Science MCAS Scores

The Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test is based on the four major content areas of the curriculum framework of Earth and Space Science, Life Science (Biology), Physical Sciences (Chemistry and Physics), and Technology/Engineering. STE MCAS tests are administered in grades 5, 8, and 9/10.  Students must earn a passing score on MCAS tests as part of the state requirements to graduate. In spring 2020, the world was overcome by the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in national lockdowns. Many schools throughout Massachusetts were not prepared or able to equip students with the resources necessary for the sudden transition to remote learning. The 2020 MCAS testing was subsequently cancelled. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved modified graduation requirements for Classes of 2020-2023. Eighth grade MCAS test scores were retrieved from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for 2019, 2021, and 2022. Median household income was retrieved from the US Census Bureau for each county. Our analysis suggests a loss of learning during the pandemic. Every county reflects a decrease in pass rates for post-pandemic years. Counties with the lowest MCAS test scores are also the counties in the bottom 50% for income. Pre-pandemic test scores suggest low-income has been an ongoing drawback for school districts. It is important to identify if there was loss of learning during the pandemic and how to better support students. The trends identified in this study can raise awareness regarding the relationship between income and achievement.  This awareness can, in turn, help educators and state education officials prepare future generations for the test or address changes to the standardized testing, such as adjustments to Competency Determination requirements or funding for student resources.

Jenna Glinka '23 
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