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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Scoring Student Answers to Open-Response and Short-Response Questions and Writing Prompts

What is Scored?

Over 6 million total student responses

  • to open-response questions in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering
  • to short-response questions in grade 3 only
  • to writing prompts for English Language Arts compositions

How is Scoring Done?

Use of scoring rubrics

  • Responses to open-response questions are scored using a scoring guide, or rubric. MCAS rubrics indicate what knowledge and skills students must demonstrate to earn 1, 2, 3, or 4 score points.
  • Responses to short-response questions are scored using a scoring guide, or rubric. Short-response rubrics are worth up to 2 score points per item. The two-point short-response question assesses reading comprehension by requiring students to construct answers in a shorter format.
  • Students' writing is evaluated on two criteria:
    • topic 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 or writing prompt to be scored
  • review the content covered by the question or prompt 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.
  • Students' compositions are each scored twice (by two separate scorers) for both topic development and standard English conventions.
  • Beginning in 2001, all grade 10 English Language Arts and Mathematics open-response questions are scored twice (by two separate scorers).

Who does the Scoring?

Professional scorers for all open-response questions and the ELA composition

Qualifications/requirements: A minimum of two years of college coursework in the discipline to be scored



Last Updated: July 27, 2011
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