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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Scoring Student Answers to Constructed-Response (Short-Response and Open-Response) Questions, Essays, and Writing Prompts

What is Scored?

Over 6 million total student responses

  • to constructed-response (short-response and open-response) questions in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering
  • to English Language Arts essays (grades 3-8) and writing prompts for compositions (grade 10 only)

How is Scoring Done?

Use of Scoring Rubrics

  • Mathematics as well as Science and Technology/Engineering constructed-response (open-response) questions are scored using a rubric, scoring notes, and student responses. These scoring materials indicate what knowledge and skills students must demonstrate to earn each score point.
  • English Language Arts constructed-response (short-response) questions for grades 3 and 4 are scored using a rubric, scoring notes, and student responses. Constructed-response rubrics are worth up to 3 score points per item. The three-point constructed-response question assesses reading comprehension by requiring students to construct an answer in a shorter format.
  • Students' writing in grades 3-8 is scored using a rubric, scoring notes, and student responses. Students' writing in grades 3-8 is evaluated on two criteria:
    • Idea Development, based on a 1-4 score-point scale for grades 3-5 and a 1-5 score-point scale for grades 6-8
    • Standard English Conventions, based on a 1-3 score-point scale for grades 3-8
  • Students' writing in grade 10 is scored using a rubric, scoring notes, and student responses. Student's writing in grade 10 is evaluated on two criteria:
    • Topic/Idea Development, based on a 1-6 score-point scale
    • Standard English Conventions, based on a 1-4 score-point scale

Scorer Training

Scorer training sessions require that scorers

  • answer each test question to be scored
  • review the content covered by the question and discuss its scoring rubric and benchmarked student responses
  • score a set of responses (training pack)
  • discuss training pack responses and scores assigned to them
  • score another set of responses (qualifying pack)
    A scorer has two opportunities to accurately score a set of qualifying responses. If a scorer is unable to consistently and accurately score the responses, they will not be allowed to score that item

Scoring System

  • Scorers view electronic copies of digitally scanned images of student responses on a computer monitor and assign scores electronically. Use of this computerized scoring system assures that student responses are randomly assigned to scorers, second readings are truly "blind," and supervisors have immediate access to information about scorer accuracy.
  • High school writing (compositions) and high school constructed-response (open-response) questions for Mathematics and Science are each scored twice by two separate scorers.

Who Does the Scoring?

Professional scorers are hired by the contractor to score all constructed-response (short-response and open-response) questions, essays, and writing prompt items. The contractor actively seeks a diverse scoring pool and typically employs scorers with a broad range of backgrounds: teachers, business professionals, graduate school students, retired educators, and the like. To ensure this diversity, demographic information such as gender, race, educational background, etc., is collected.

All recruited scorers will meet, at a minimum, the following requirements:

  • For Grades 3-8, all scorers will have at least 48 college credits, with at least two classes related to the content area being scored.
  • For high school, all scorers must have a 4-year college degree and a degree related to the content area being scored.


Last Updated: September 15, 2017
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