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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Next-Generation MCAS: New Achievement Levels and Descriptors

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
March 17, 2017

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This memorandum discusses my revised recommendations for new achievement level categories and policy-level descriptors for the next-generation MCAS tests. A vote to adopt these recommendations is on the agenda for our March 28, 2017, meeting.

As I informed you at the February meeting, last year I convened an MCAS standard setting policy committee, composed of Massachusetts educators, to advise us on achievement level descriptors for the new tests, which will be given for the first time to students in grades 3-8 in English language arts and mathematics in spring 2017. These descriptors will serve as guidance to the standard setting committees that will review the test results in each grade and recommend cut scores corresponding to each level of performance. The descriptors will also be included on the parent/guardian score reports to help students and their families better understand the test results.

The standard setting policy committee produced a proposal, which I first shared with you at the November 29, 2016, Board meeting. The Department solicited feedback on the committee's proposal through outreach to stakeholder groups and through an online survey for the public and the educational community.

At the February 28 meeting of the Board, I presented my recommendations for discussion, which incorporated the suggestions and comments gathered during the review process. My current recommendation to the Board, which is attached to this memorandum, additionally takes into consideration the discussion that took place at the February meeting. During that discussion, Board members expressed their desire for stronger, more straightforward language around the need for intervention for students who score at the lower levels.

For comparison, I have also included the standard setting policy committee's original proposal as well as the descriptors used on our current (legacy) MCAS. It should be noted that we will continue to use the legacy descriptors on our legacy high school and science and technology/engineering tests. As next-generation versions of those tests are developed, they will incorporate the new achievement levels and descriptors.

A motion for the Board's consideration is also attached.

Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, Associate Commissioner Michol Stapel, and Chief MCAS Analyst Bob Lee will join us for the discussion to answer any questions you may have.

Attachment:

Next-generation MCAS Achievement Levels and Descriptors

Motion

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March 2017 Recommendations to the Board

Exceeding Expectations
A student who performed at this level exceeded grade-level expectations by demonstrating mastery of the subject matter.

Meeting Expectations
A student who performed at this level met grade-level expectations and is academically on-track to succeed in the current grade in this subject.

Partially Meeting Expectations
A student who performed at this level partially met grade-level expectations in this subject. The school, in consultation with the student's parent/guardian, should consider whether the student needs additional academic assistance to succeed in this subject.

Not Meeting Expectations
A student who performed at this level did not meet grade-level expectations in this subject. The school, in consultation with the student's parent/guardian, should determine the coordinated academic assistance and/or additional instruction the student needs to succeed in this subject.

As originally proposed by the Standard Setting Policy Committee

Exceeding Expectations
Students performing at this level on this test exceed grade-level expectations for knowledge, skills, and understanding, and are academically well prepared to succeed at the next grade level.

Meeting Expectations
Students performing at this level on this test meet grade-level expectations for knowledge, skills, and understanding, and are academically prepared to succeed at the next grade level.

Partially Meeting Expectations
Students performing at this level on this test partially meet grade-level expectations for knowledge, skills, and understanding. These students may need coordinated assistance and/or additional instruction to succeed at the next grade level.

Not Yet Meeting Expectations
Students performing at this level on this test did not meet grade-level expectations for knowledge, skills, and understanding. These students need substantial coordinated intervention and/or additional instruction to succeed at the next grade level.

Legacy MCAS Achievement Levels and Descriptors

Advanced
Students at this level demonstrate a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of challenging subject matter and provide sophisticated solutions to complex problems.

Proficient
Students at this level demonstrate a solid understanding of challenging subject matter and solve a wide variety of problems.

Needs Improvement
Students at this level demonstrate a partial understanding of subject matter and solve some simple problems

Warning (Failing at high school)
Students at this level demonstrate a minimal understanding of subject matter and do not solve simple problems.



Last Updated: March 23, 2017
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