What does this measure?
The percentage of students considered proficient on one of the state's 3rd grade English Language Arts test, either the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
Why is this important?
Early literacy skills are critical to a successful school experience. Third grade is considered an important milestone in a student's career in terms of reading proficiency and is correlated to whether a student will graduate high school. Up through 3rd grade, students are learning to read; after 3rd grade, they must be able to read in order to learn. There are persistent gaps in academic achievement among students of different races, ethnicities and incomes. Notably, racial gaps persist even among students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds.
How is our county doing?
In 2022, 39% of Essex County 3rd graders were considered proficient in reading, down 6 percentage points from 2021 and lower than the state passing rate of 44%. Among districts, rates were highest in 2022 in Boxford (77%), Topsfield (69%), Andover and Ipswich (both at 67%), and lowest in Lawrence (18%), Lynn (20%) and Salem (28%).
In Essex County in 2022, proficiency was lower among Hispanic students (20%), economically disadvantaged students (23%), and African American students (30%) compared with students who are not economically disadvantaged (57%), white (53%) or Asian (55%). Proficiency declined from 2021 among all groups except for students who are not economically disadvantaged (up 12 points). Proficiency declined the most for economically disadvantaged students (down 22 points from 2021).
How do we compare to similar counties?
Middlesex, MA had a higher proficiency rate in 2022 at 53%. Disparities were similar in both counties.
Why do these disparities exist?
Studies point to a variety of factors believed to contribute to disparities in test scores and other measures of student achievement. School systems in the United States are highly segregated, and students of color disproportionately attend schools with high proportions of low-income students who may not have benefited from early learning opportunities at the same rate as other students. Schools also have different levels of resources ranging from qualified/experienced teachers to advanced courses to facilities and technology, and schools with large Black and Latino populations often have lower levels. In addition, teachers across all school systems tend to be disproportionately white, and teaching practices and curriculum may not be culturally relevant to students of color.
Notes about the data
As assessments vary among states, it is not possible to include comparable data for the nation or other areas in this indicator.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education did not administer Spring 2020 MCAS for the 2019-2020 school year due to the cancellation of state assessments and school closures related to COVID-19.
Data prior to 2017 is not comparable due to changes in the state test.