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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System


The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) is designed to meet the requirements of the Education Reform Law of 1993. This law specifies that the testing program must

  • test all public school students in Massachusetts, including students with disabilities and English Language Learner students;
  • measure performance based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework learning standards;
  • report on the performance of individual students, schools, and districts.

As required by the Education Reform Law, students must pass the grade 10 tests in English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics and one of the four high school Science and Technology Engineering tests as one condition of eligibility for a high school diploma (in addition to fulfilling local requirements).

In addition, the MCAS program is used to hold schools and districts accountable, on a yearly basis, for the progress they have made toward the objective of the No Child Left Behind Law that all students be proficient in Reading and Mathematics by 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What subjects does MCAS test?
  2. What types of questions are used on MCAS tests?
  3. How are test results reported?
  4. How are test results used?
  5. Is a ranking of district and town by MCAS scores available?
  6. Are all students required to participate?
  7. Can parents refuse their child's participation in the MCAS tests?
  8. How do students with disabilities participate in the MCAS tests?
  9. How do English Language Learners participate in the MCAS tests?
  10. What types of state-funded academic support programs are available for high school students or young adults who left high school without receiving a high school diploma?

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4. How are test results used?

Improvements in teaching and learning

Parents, students, and educators use the results to:

  • Follow student progress
  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in curriculum and instruction
  • Fine-tune curriculum alignment with the statewide standards standards (or align curriculum with the statewide standards)
  • Gather diagnostic information that can be used to improve student performance
  • Identify students who may need additional support services/remediation

School and district accountability

As required by the Education Reform Law, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Education established a rating system and standards for improving student academic performance that schools and districts must meet. In addition, under No Child Left Behind the Department reports on the Annual Yearly Progress of students in schools and districts based on MCAS results for groups of students.

View more information on the School Performance Ratings Process

Student accountability

Students are required to pass the MCAS grade 10 tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics and one high school test in Biology, Chemistry, Introductory Physics, or Technology/ Engineering, and fulfill all local requirements, to be eligible for a high school diploma. Students are provided with multiple opportunities, if necessary, to pass the tests.

Last Updated: March 5, 2013
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