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).
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.
In 2019, 55% of Essex County 3rd graders were considered proficient in reading, up 5 percentage points from 2018. Among districts, rates were highest in 2019 in Andover (77%), Lynnfield and Swampscott (both at 75%), and lowest in Lawrence (35%) and Haverhill and Lynn (both at 43%).
IIn Essex County in 2019, proficiency was lower among economically disadvantaged students (39%), Hispanic students (40%) and African American students (44%) compared with students who are not economically disadvantaged, white or Asian (65%, 63% and 69%, respectively). However, gains were stronger in some groups, with proficiency up 5 points among both economically disadvantaged students and white students and 4 points among Hispanic and Asian students from 2018.
Middlesex, MA had a higher proficiency rate in 2019 at 64%. Disparities were similar in both counties.
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.
As assessments vary among states, it is not possible to include comparable data for the nation or other areas in this indicator. Data from earlier years is not comparable due to changes in the state test.