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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Spring 2017 MCAS Grades 3-8
Computer-Based Test Administration
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This document provides responses to questions that principals frequently asked during MCAS test training sessions held earlier this winter. It is intended to supplement the Principal's Administration Manual (PAM), which contains all the basic information needed for a smooth test administration. Answers to other questions can be found by searching for a keyword in the PDF version of the PAM, which is posted on the Department's website. This document will continue to be updated throughout test administration, so please check back for updates.

Please contact the MCAS Service Center at 800-737-5103 for clarification on test administration procedures and with questions about logistics or technology. Contact the Department at 781-338-3625 with policy questions or questions about student participation.

Questions Added April 7, 2017

Q.
What steps need to be taken when a student doesn't test, or left in the middle of testing and will not return?
A.
If the student will not be able to test during the window due to medical absence, or a technical failure, then a not tested reason should be indicated on the student test record. This can be done in PAN under Setup > Students > Manage Student Tests. Here, select the Not Tested Code checkbox and the appropriate Not Tested Reason from the drop down. If the student has started the test but will not finish due to technical failure or other reasons, a void reason should be indicated on the student test record. This can be done in PAN under Setup > Students > Manage Student Tests. Here, select the Void Test Score Code checkbox and the appropriate Void Test Score Reason from the dropdown.

Q.
What should be done if a student starts a test without the correct accommodation (text-to-Speech, Screen Reader, Assistive Technology)?
A.
Text-to-speech, Screen Reader and Assistive Technology all require a uniquely created form to test. Because of this, the accommodation cannot be turned on or off once the student has started testing (like Alternative Background and Font Color). If a student needs one of these accommodations changed, the test administrator will need to mark the student test complete (Testing > Students in Sessions > Mark Student Tests Complete), void the test (Setup > Students > Manage Student Tests) and then assign a new test with the correct accommodations. Please note that the new test will need to be placed into a separate CBT test session.

Q.
If a student is sick or misses a day of testing, how do I allow the student to take the next session of the test with the rest of the class?
A.
If a student misses a day of testing, the test administrator will be able to "set" the student so he or she can test with the rest of the class. This can be done by selecting Set Section Start from the tasks drop down on the Students in Sessions page. Here, users can select the session of the test they would like the student to start testing in. Once the student has completed the last session of the test, the test administrator will be able to use Set Section Start to move the student into the session of the test that was skipped when the student was absent. There is no need to change the test session in PAN.

Questions added March 29, 2017

Q.
How can test administrators find their sessions in PearsonAccess Next?
A.
Test administrators can go to Testing > Sessions in PA Next and use the "Find Sessions" box to search by session name. Type in the first few letters of the session name and click the blue Search button. Users can also search for sessions by selecting one or more Filters on the left side of the screen.

Q.
How can a student's status be changed to "Resumed"?
A.
To resume a student (or multiple students at one time), go to Testing > Students in Sessions. Be sure that the session is selected in the Session List. Check the box next to the Student Name(s) to be resumed. Select Resume Student Tests from the task menu. Then click Start.

Q.
What are the instructions at the end of each session to log a student out of TestNav?
A.
At the end of Session 1, students are directed to click the "Submit Section" button. Once they do so, they will be brought to a screen to enter their seal codes to begin Session 2. At that time, the students should be instructed to sign out of TestNav by clicking the dropdown menu in the top right and selecting "Sign Out of TestNav." They will be prompted to click "Save and Return Later." This will completely exit them from TestNav and they will appear as "Exited" in PAN. (This is also the same process for grades 3-5 ELA between Sessions 2 and 3.)

Q.
When should a test administrator lock a session in PearsonAccess Next? What are the steps to do this?
A.
Sessions can be locked at the end of each day. The test administrator goes to Testing > Students in Sessions and ensures that the session is selected in the Session List. The test administrator can then slide the toggle bar next to the lock icon from unlocked to locked. At the start of the next day's session, this process should be repeated, sliding the toggle from locked to unlocked.

Q.
When should a test administrator see a student's status as "Complete?" When should a student be "Marked Complete?"
A.
Students will only be moved into "Complete" status when they have finished all sessions of a content area test. Between each testing session, test administrators will see students in "Exited" status. At the end of testing, all the students who started testing should be in either "Complete" or "Marked Complete" status. Test administrators may need to mark a student complete if the student was unable to finish an entire test during the window (i.e., started testing but was absent for remainder of the testing window). Once a test is "Complete" or "Marked Complete," a student cannot go back into the test. If a test was completed accidentally, call Student Assessment Services at 781-338-3625 to discuss unsubmitting a test.

Q.
Is there advice for the end of a session when a student is supposed to submit the test?
A.
Schools with a concern that some students may submit their test who are not actually done testing may wish to review procedures before beginning testing so that test administrators pause for students to raise their hands if they need more time to answer questions. Alternatively, schools may wish to reverse the order in the script so that test administrators read the line asking students if they need more time before the instructions to click to end the session.

Q.
When should a test administrator stop a session in PearsonAccess Next (PAN)?
A.
A session in PAN can only be stopped once testing is completed and all students' statuses are Complete or Marked Complete. Further instructions are provided in the PAN user guide.

Initial Questions (March 24, 2017)

Test Administration Logistics

Q.
May test administrators print out seal codes and testing tickets prior to testing?
A.
Seal codes are not to be printed, but instead are to be written on the board at the beginning of each test session and then erased at the end of each session (and, only one seal code should be displayed at a time). Testing tickets may be printed out the day prior to testing by test coordinators. Once printed, testing tickets are considered secure materials and must be tracked.

Q.
How many different testing tickets are required for each student?
A.
Each student will receive one testing ticket per subject area test. The testing ticket is reused for all of the sessions for each subject area test.

Q.
What assistance can the test administrator provide to a student who asks for help with an onscreen tool?
A.
It is critically important that students have an opportunity to learn about the use of the onscreen tools by viewing the student tutorial and taking a practice test before testing begins, so they will become familiar with the tool and how it performs. During testing, test administrators should read aloud the section of the script reminding students that they may ask for help with the computer tools.

If a student is struggling to use any onscreen tool or perform an onscreen function, the test administrator may provide assistance to the student for any of the following activities:
  • logging students in
  • locating or clicking on a tool button (e.g., the calculator or answer eliminator button)
  • helping a student use the drag-and-drop feature
  • moving from one test question to the next
  • helping a student submit his or her test
  • helping students locate a second text using a tab interface (in the case of paired texts on an ELA test)
  • helping students locate additional text using a scroll bar, when a student recognizes that he or she is in the middle of reading a text but does not know how to continue reading
Examples of prohibited assistance include:
  • telling a student to use the calculator or a specific tool on a particular question
  • telling a student where to place the response when using the drag-and-drop feature


Q.
During lunch or other breaks (including moving a student to a test completion room) from computer-based testing (CBT), what is the best way to secure a student's CBT test?
A.
The easiest solution may be for test administrators to instruct students, before taking a break, to turn their computer monitors off or, for tablets, to turn tablets face down on their desks. During a lunch break, a piece of cardboard could be put in front of a computer screen to maintain security.

For additional security, test administrators should instruct a student to log out of testing before taking a break.
  • Next to the student's name at the top right-hand corner of the screen is a dropdown menu.
  • Ask the students to choose "Sign out of TestNav" then choose "Save and Return Later."
  • After the break, the student can log back into the test using his or her testing ticket, after the test administrator resumes the test from PearsonAccess Next.


Q.
When a student needs more time than is scheduled to complete a test session, should the student click on "Submit Final Answers"?
A.
No. A student who needs more than the allotted time to complete a test should use the dropdown menu in the upper right corner of the screen to select "Save Answers and Complete Later." The test administrator should then follow school protocol to allow the student who needs additional time to complete the test (e.g., in a different test setting). When the student signs back in to the test, he or she will need to use the same testing ticket as before to complete the session, once the test is resumed by their test administrator.

Q.
May a student add additional information to a response once the test session has been submitted?
A.
No. Once a student's test answers are submitted, the test is no longer accessible to the student.

Q.
If a student is absent on the initial day of testing, what logistics are required for make-up testing?
A.
When the student has returned to school, he or she should continue testing with the rest of their class. Prior to logging in to the test, the test administrator will need to set the section start for the student so that they may test out of order. To do this, the test administrator will go into PearsonAccess Next > Students in Sessions > enter the session name and select the student > Set Section Start/Resume.

Once the student has completed testing with the class, they will need to have their section set again so they can complete the session they missed. Test coordinators may want to create a makeup session in PearsonAccess Next and move students who need to make up a particular session.

When students finish the last session of the test (Session 3 for Math or Session 2 for ELA) with an earlier session still unfinished, they will not be able to Submit Final Answers. The student will see the following text on their screen "You cannot submit final answers as there are unvisited sections in your test. Please contact your proctor." They should exit the test they have just completed at the top, right-hand corner of their screen.

Once the student submits their answers for their final session, the Test coordinator will mark the student's test as "Complete" to indicate they are finished testing.


Managing Student Information

Q.
How should student information be handled in PearsonAccess Next for a student who transfers out of the school where they began the school year before testing starts?
A.
When students transfer out, their former school can remove the test assignments and unregister them from the test administration as long as the students have not been enrolled by a new school. If students have been enrolled, the former school can leave the student registered and simply remove the test assignments.

Q.
An ELL student just arrived in my school. Should I test this student?
A.
A first-year ELL student must be tested in MCAS Mathematics and Science and Technology/Engineering. ELL students who enroll in a Massachusetts school after the district's March 2016 (i.e., last school year) SIMS report was submitted are not required to take the ELA MCAS test. However, schools may elect to administer the MCAS ELA tests to first-year ELLs for diagnostic purposes only, and the results for those students will not be included in school and district summary results or in state accountability reporting.

Q.
For a first-year ELL student who does not participate in ELA testing (because their participation is optional), does the student need to be unassigned in PearsonAccess Next?
A.
If the student has already been assigned, there is no need to unassign the student; the Department will review and validate using SIMS. But, if this step has not been done, the student does not need to be assigned in PearsonAccess Next.


Materials for Testing

Q.
May students use an 8 ½"x11" whiteboard during testing instead of scratch paper?
A.
Schools may choose to provide whiteboards to students instead of scratch paper during testing; schools should also provide slim-point markers for students to use, so that their writing is less readable by a neighboring student. Whiteboards must be tracked (similar to scratch paper), and must be erased completely before students are excused at the end of each session.

Q.
May students use tracing paper in addition to or instead of scratch paper during testing?
A.
Schools may choose to provide tracing paper to students for use during testing, either in addition to or instead of scratch paper. This option may be particularly useful during Mathematics testing if schools are using tracing paper in regular instruction. The same tracking requirement for other types of scratch paper must be implemented for tracing paper.

Q.
May a student bring his or her own computer mouse to use during testing?
A.
Yes.

Q.
Are students allowed to use a handheld ruler during computer-based testing?
A.
No.

Q.
May students use printed copies of the standard reference sheets?
A.
For grades 5-8, schools may provide reference sheets to students who wish to use printed copies. Schools may print the standard reference sheets from the Department's website.

Q.
Can students have access to their cell phones during a test session for medical reasons (e.g., to monitor blood glucose levels)?
A.
For security reasons, students who require a cell phone for medical reasons may not have the phone in their possession during MCAS testing. The student's cell phone can be turned on and remain in the possession of the test administrator, with the student seated near the test administrator. The Department recommends that a test administrator performing this function be specially trained or familiar with the application being used by the student. The student should have information about the use of a cell phone application for this purpose listed either in an IEP or 504 plan. Schools should request approval to use this unique accommodation by emailing mcas@doe.mass.edu prior to test administration.


Tools available in the Student Testing Platform

Q.
Does text typed into the notepad during testing carry over from one question to another?
A.
No. Text can only be entered into the notepad for one question at a time. Text that applies to more than one item must be retyped for each question, either in the answer space or in the notepad.

Q.
Can students copy/paste text in TestNav?
A.
Students can only copy/paste text that they have written from the answer box to the notepad and vice versa. Text from items or passages cannot be copied or pasted into a student's writing space.


Accessibility Features and Accommodations

Q.
What is the difference between the Answer Eliminator and Line Reader tools?
A.
The Answer Eliminator tool can only be used for multiple-choice questions; it marks a red "X" through an entire response option. The Line Reader tool is a large black rectangle with a one-line-high "window" in the middle through which the student can read one line at a time. The Line Reader can be moved around the screen by the student and allows the student to focus on one line at a time without visual distractions from other text on the screen.

Q.
Which accessibility features must be documented in the Personal Needs Profile (PNP)?
A.
Answer Masking and Alternative Background and Font Color are the only accessibility features that must be requested in advance in the student's PNP, and are available to any student. Note: Answer Eliminator, Line Reader, and Ruler are located on the toolbar at the top of each test question screen and will be available to all students during testing.

Q.
Which accommodations must be documented in the PNP?
A.
Accommodations for students with disabilities that must be documented in the PNP include the following: Paper Testing (if other students in the student's grade are taking computer-based tests), Text-to-Speech or Human Read-Aloud, Screen Reader, Assistive Technology, Spell Checker, Calculation Device, Human Scribe, Large Print, Braille, Word Prediction, and Typed Responses. Accommodations for ELL students that must be documented in the PNP include: Paper Testing (for first-year ELLs only), Text-to-Speech or Human Read-Aloud (Math and STE only), and Human Scribe.

Q.
What are the logistics for a student with a disability who has the accommodation for a calculator on non-calculator sessions of the Mathematics test?
A.
Test administrators should provide a handheld calculator during computer-based testing, since the calculator function is only available as a tool in the online test for grades 7 and 8 Mathematics Session 2.

Q.
Can a student use headphones during testing as an accommodation for noise cancelling?
A.
Yes, but test administrators must ensure that the headphones are not connected (by Bluetooth or other means) to any source of music or sound. Students should not begin to use headphones until after the test administrator has read the testing instructions to the students being tested.



Last Updated: April 18, 2017
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