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Background on Next-Gen MCAS

The Need to Build a New MCAS

A good testing system is tied directly to good teaching and learning. In Massachusetts, we set high learning standards-what a student should know and be able to do at each grade level and in each subject. Then, educators create classroom lessons and select textbooks and other resources to provide each child the best education possible.

To find out how well students understand what is being taught, educators give students local and state tests. Using test results, school districts and teachers can identify areas where students need more help, refine lesson plans, and even select different curriculum resources to help students reach high expectations.

The MCAS tests, used in concert with ambitious learning standards, have played an important role in the achievement gains of the past 20 years. Our K-12 public school students lead the nation in academic achievement and are competitive internationally. That success would not have been possible without a high-quality testing system that provides feedback on student, school, district, and state achievement and progress.

However, MCAS was not designed to measure readiness for success in college or a career after high school. In fact, more than a third of the state's public school graduates who attend Massachusetts's public colleges or universities are placed in remedial courses. The remedial rate is closer to 70 percent for two-year colleges. These courses often consume a student's financial aid, are not credit-bearing, and do not count toward graduation. Too often, these students do not graduate college on time or at all.

Today, we have a better understanding about learning progressions in mathematics, text complexity and the interplay of reading and writing, and the academic expectations of higher-education institutions and employers.

Now that we have upgraded our learning expectations over the years through revisions to our learning standards and content standards, it is time to upgrade our assessments for the next generation of students.

The Next-Generation MCAS

The Next-Generation MCAS will build upon the best aspects of the MCAS assessments that have served the Commonwealth well for the past two decades. The test will include innovative items created to assess the Massachusetts learning standards.

The new MCAS will be designed to be taken on a computer. The plan is to phase in computer-based testing so that computer-based tests are fully administered statewide in 2019, with many students participating as well in 2017 and 2018.

In spring 2019, schools are expected to administer the tests listed below1 using the computer-based format:

  • Grades 3–8 ELA and Mathematics

  • Grades 5 and 8 STE

  • Grade 10 ELA and Mathematics2

  • High School Biology and Introductory Physics field tests

Massachusetts will have complete control of test administration, test content, testing windows, and the reporting of results.

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1 Paper-based tests will be available as an accommodation as required by a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP); as needed for first-year EL students who are unfamiliar with computers; and the small number of students who do not have IEPs but who are unable to take a computer-based test for other reasons, following the guidelines in the Accessibility and Accommodations Manual.

2 Note for high schools: the operational high school STE tests in February and June and the high school retests in November and March will use the paper-based format (no computer-based version will be available).

Last Updated: November 7, 2018
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