Nantucket High School sophomores took the mathematics section of MCAS on May 16th and 17th.
Public schools throughout the Commonwealth use the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) as a way to test knowledge of core subjects: the purpose of the assessment is to “determine the progress individual students have made in acquiring the knowledge and skills as outlined in the Massachusetts Curriculum.” The system requires that students in set grades participate in the testing process. MCAS is used to test aptitude in English and Language Arts, Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Science.
The Mathematics section of the MCAS includes two test sessions which are administered on consecutive days. Each test session consists of multiple-choice and open-response questions. Section 1 prohibits the use of calculators as it includes additional short-answer problems. Students were permitted to use their calculators for Section 2.
“The second part of the test was easier for me,” said sophomore Martha Saravia. “It was easier - not because we had calculators on hand - but the questions were more comprehensive.”
Saravia prepared for the test by reviewing her notes, going through her worksheets, and asking her teacher for help when she got stuck on a problem. “I was kind of nervous, even though I was well-prepared, as I had never taken a Math MCAS before and you never know what is going to be on the test,” she said. “However, I felt confident when I looked at the questions.”
NHS teachers covered many topics in preparation for the exam. Math teachers primarily followed the Common Core, exploring topics including polynomials, functions, linear equations, quadratic equations, geometry, data and probability.
The Mathematics MCAS tests students’ broad knowledge, covering not only what they have learned during sophomore year, but what they have been taught in prior years. “The MCAS is comprehensive, it goes back to 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade,” said math teacher Ms. Elissa Gilgen. “So, teachers reinforced skills that students learned in previous years to get ready for MCAS.”
Most students felt confident about the MCAS. “We, as teachers, talked and collaborated to make sure that students were confident and not nervous so they would walk in feeling ready,” said Gilgen.”And the students worked hard all year long.”
Results from recent years show that scores in Mathematics have been relatively constant for NHS students. According to the Massachusetts Department of Education:
In 2012: 55 students got advanced, 30 students got proficient, 6 students got needs improvement, and 9 students got warning/failing.
In 2013, 52 students got advanced, 31 students got proficient, 14 students got needs improvement, and 4 students got warning/failing.
In 2014, 41 students got advanced, 30 students got proficient, 18 students got needs improvement and 11 students got warning/failing.
In 2015, 40 students got advanced, 31 students got proficient, 16 students got needs improvement, 14 students got warning/failing.
In 2016, 39 students got advanced, 30 students got proficient, 20 students got needs improvement, and 11 students got warning/failing.