Dartmouth outperforms state and prior year MCAS testing, but lags behind pre-pandemic results

Sep 19, 2023

In the newly released 2023 MCAS results, Dartmouth Public Schools outperformed state averages in all grade levels for all subjects other than science. However, Dartmouth still lags behind its own 2019 results, demonstrating the continued effect of “learning loss” due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System measures academic success across public schools in the state. Students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10 take both English and Language Arts and Math exams, while only students in grades 5, 8 and 10 take the science exam. 

School districts are still using federal Covid relief funds, money from the Student Opportunity Act and grants from the education department to finance additional academic support for students. Some of this programming includes accelerated learning academies during school vacations.

According to the state, districts continue to indicate a desire for additional grants and professional learning opportunities. 

“Our initial analysis provides hope and reason to be proud that the [percentage] of students meeting or exceeding standards in ELA and Math for grades 3-8 and grade 10 exceeds the state performance,” said Superintendent June Saba-Maguire in a statement. “However, we recognize there is a great deal of ground to make up as many of the challenges resulting from the pandemic are likely to remain for several additional years.”

Pandemic learning loss 

At nearly all grade levels for Math, ELA and Science, Dartmouth had a significantly lower percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations than 2019 results. 

In the ELA exam for grades 3 through 8, Dartmouth saw a 7 percentage point drop, with the largest discrepancies coming from grades 5 and 6. 

By contrast, Math exams for the same grade levels saw a small drop of 1 percentage point from 2019. However, that number is misleading, as it’s largely buoyed by the overperformance of grade 4, whereas most other grades still lag slightly or significantly behind pandemic results. Grade 10, in particular, has dropped 13 percentage points in Math since 2019. 

The percentage of Dartmouth students that met or exceeded expectations on Science exams decreased significantly from 2019 for grades 5 and 8, by 8 and 10 percentage points, respectively. Grade 10’s science exam was changed last year, making it incomparable to 2019 exams. 

Outperforming the state

At all grade levels for Math and ELA, Dartmouth had a higher percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations than the state average, and sometimes by a significant margin. In Science, Dartmouth is mostly equivalent to state averages. 

In the ELA exam for grades 3 through 8, 52% of Dartmouth students met or exceeded expectations, compared to the 42 percent state average. Grades 5 and 6 outperformed state levels by the largest margin. 

For Mathematics exams taken by grades 3 through 8, Dartmouth again saw 52% of students meeting or exceeding expectations, while the state average was 41%. Grades 4, 6 and 8 represented the largest difference. 

Slight improvements from last year

From last year’s results, the district saw slight improvements in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in English and Language Arts at most grade levels and slight declines or no changes in Mathematics at most levels. Bright spots include a 7 percentage point increase from 2022 for grades 3 and 5. 

Science results present a jumbled picture: grades 5 and 8 saw no significant change in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations since last year, but grade 10 saw a 13 percentage point decrease for the subject.