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Improvement of special needs students on the mathematics Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS): Perceptions of secondary mathematics teachers and administrators

Susan C Miller, Johnson & Wales University


Since the passage of the 1993 Education Reform Act, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) has been part of the education landscape in Massachusetts. The MCAS is a battery of tests that are administered to students each year to determine their graduation eligibility. At the secondary level, the high-stakes nature of the MCAS calls for students to demonstrate a mastery of English/Language Arts and mathematics in order to graduate and receive a high school diploma. Statewide, students, teachers, and administrators have made significant progress in meeting the demands of the standards-based Massachusetts curriculum. One of the student populations that have had the most difficulty with high-stakes mathematics testing, and that suffer the most negative consequences of these tests, are special education students (Donley, 2000). In 1998, eighty-eight percent (88%) of the students with disabilities failed the math MCAS. In 2004, the number dropped to forty-one percent (41%). The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine from the perspective of teachers and principals what instructional practices and strategies have been used in assisting students with disabilities to obtain such gains for that population on 10th grade math MCAS. The results of this study determined components of a best practice model for mathematics teachers. The study utilized a multiple-case research design in which 22 teachers and 5 administrators in 2 medium sized suburban, 1 large suburban and 1 urban Massachusetts school district were interviewed. The interviews identified perceptions of key stakeholders regarding the instructional practices and strategies as defined by the National Council Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. Personal interviews were conducted with guided questions to obtain information from each teacher and administrator regarding their perception of their participation in effective mathematics instructional strategies and practices. Interviewee responses were analyzed to identify the similarities and differences between teachers and administrators perceptions. Information from the study offers insight regarding educational achievement for students with disabilities.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Special education

Recommended Citation

Miller, Susan C, "Improvement of special needs students on the mathematics Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS): Perceptions of secondary mathematics teachers and administrators" (2006). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3234951.