Parent's Guide to the MCAS for Grade 4

Overview


The MCAS

* The knowledge and skills it measures
* Interpreting your child's and your school's test results
* How you can help your child's teacher and school raise MCAS scores by reinforcing key concepts at home

Your Child

* Developing a positive, confident approach to the MCAS
* Home activities to build problem-solving and reading comprehension skills measured by the test
* Coping with test anxiety

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Overview


The MCAS

* The knowledge and skills it measures
* Interpreting your child's and your school's test results
* How you can help your child's teacher and school raise MCAS scores by reinforcing key concepts at home

Your Child

* Developing a positive, confident approach to the MCAS
* Home activities to build problem-solving and reading comprehension skills measured by the test
* Coping with test anxiety

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743214063
  • Publisher: Kaplan Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 9 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.21 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction vii
Chapter 1 The As, Bs, Cs, and Ds of Good Test-Taking 1
Chapter 2 Grade 4 English Language Arts MCAS 13
Chapter 3 Grade 4 MCAS Mathematics 31
Chapter 4 I Got a What?! 49
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Introduction

INTRODUCTION

Although several years have passed since you were nine years old, your fourth-grade experience and your child's are probably not very different. There are still spelling bees at school, dodgeball games at recess, and giggling fits during class in which students try to stop laughing, but just can't. These are all memories you can share with your child. However, the experience of spending weeks in intensive preparation for three different multisession standardized tests is one your child will have all on his or her own.

The tests in question are the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, also known as the MCAS. The fourth-grade exams, which roughly seventy-five thousand children take annually, are similar to the various MCAS exams given to all Massachusetts students in grades three through eight. In the fourth grade, students take separate MCAS exams in English Language Arts and Mathematics. There was also a Science & Technology MCAS, but starting in 2001 this test is no longer given to fourth graders. Instead, fifth-graders will now take a Science & Technology MCAS as well as a History & Social Science MCAS.

Both fourth-grade MCAS tests are a mixture of multiple-choice questions and questions with extended open-ended answers. The English Language Arts exam also contains an early session during which the students must write a composition, while the Mathematics MCAS has five short-answer questions along with its multiple-choice and extended open-response questions. Critics of the test complain that some IRS forms are easier to understand than this test format. While this may be true, if you and your child familiarize yourselves with the test structure, your child will not be confused or frustrated by the test format and will instead approach the exam with the confidence of a veteran accountant handling a 1040EZ form.

How the MCAS Tests Were Born

Even though these fourth-grade tests do not cover past events, a little history here will help put the tests in perspective. In 1993 the state of Massachusetts passed the Education Reform Act, a $5-billion law aimed at doubling the amount of money the state spent on education. Among 34 percent of all Massachusetts fourth-graders received a passing grade on the Math exam, while only 20 percent received an acceptable grade on the English Language Arts MCAS (66 percent of all students landed in the "needs improvement" category in English). Since then, scores have improved somewhat, but not as greatly as educators had hoped. For example, on the 2000 Math exam the number of students receiving an acceptable grade increased to 40 percent, a six percent increase from 1998. In contrast, the 2000 scores for the English Language Arts MCAS are virtually identical with the 1998 results, although the number of students who received a failing grade did decrease by two percent (from fifteen to thirteen percent).

These poor scores made state headlines in 1998, and in the following years the debate over the MCAS has only increased. There were student and parent protests before the spring 2000 MCAS administration, and in 2001 there were 46 MCAS-related bills pending in the state legislature. Though the dust has yet to settle, one thing seems clear: low scores do not mean these tests will be made easier or eliminated. The emphasis on standardized testing at all levels is growing stronger, not weaker. With "accountability" the pervasive theme in national education, more and more states are setting academic standards and then rewarding or punishing schools depending on whether they achieve these standards.

What's at Stake?

With so much emphasis being placed on the MCAS, you'd think the fourth-graders who take it should be given the right to vote as a reward (at least in state elections). Quite a bit is at stake, for both the child and the school district. MCAS scores are reported for students, schools, and districts. School districts that do badly may fire superintendents, principals, or teachers, although no specific plan is yet in place to deal with low-scoring schools. As for the individual fourth-grader, each school district must decide whether students who fail the tests can be promoted to the fifth grade, so the fate of the thousands of students who might fail will be determined by geography.

How You Can Help

Many of you are already aware of how important the fourth-grade tests are to your son or daughter, which is why you picked up this book. While your child's teacher is probably already doing some exam-related work in the classroom, nothing is better for your child than receiving personal tutoring from someone she trusts, namely, you. Inside this book are all the facts, tips, questions, activities, and advice you will need to help your child succeed on the fourth-grade MCAS tests. The Parent's Guide to the MCAS for Grade 4 lets you know exactly what skills are being tested on these two exams, gives you test-taking strategies to make approaching these tests easier, and tells you exactly how to teach your child these skills and strategies. By analyzing and discussing the tests in detail, our goal is not only to provide you and your child with the basic knowledge she needs to excel on the tests, but to instill a sense of confidence through familiarity, since feeling confident and prepared for these long, involved exams is a key factor in how a student fares on the tests.

After reading this book, both you and your child should feel ready to take on the tests first, and then the fifth grade. While that feeling might not do you any good in your adult life, it will do wonders for your kid.

Copyright © 2001 by Anaxos Inc.

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