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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update: December 17, 2015

Districts' Assessment Decision—Deadline to Respond: 12:00 p.m. on December 18

As a reminder, districts that administered PARCC in grades 3—8 in spring 2015 will do so again in 2016, and districts that administered MCAS will choose MCAS or PARCC in spring 2016 no later than noon on December 18. In addition, schools that administer PARCC in spring 2016, including those administering PARCC for the second year, can choose their mode of administration for 2016, either paper-and-pencil or online. Superintendents received their password and survey link to make their decision on November 23.

Districts with questions, or those requiring an extension, should contact by the December 18 deadline.

Important Updates for the Spring 2016 MCAS Administration for Grades 3—8 English Language Arts and Mathematics

In accordance with the Board's November 17 vote, the Department will augment the spring 2016 MCAS English Language Arts and Mathematics tests for grades 3—8 with a limited number of PARCC test items. A complete summary to date of all the details regarding these updates is provided below; updates will continue to be provided as available, including an updated schedule with adjusted testing times to accommodate the new test items, updated test administration planning information, and updated blueprints for the 2016 ELA and Mathematics tests.

Districts and schools should familiarize themselves with PARCC items by using PARCC practice tests and released items from the 2015 administration.

Grades 3—8 MCAS English Language Arts

  • The MCAS English Language Arts Reading Comprehension test for grades 3—8 will be called the MCAS English Language Arts test for spring 2016.
  • Session 2 of the MCAS English Language Arts test for grades 3—8 will include two sections, 2A and 2B. Section 2A will contain MCAS items, and section 2B will be the PARCC Narrative Writing section.
  • (Previously announced) Since students will write in response to text for the Narrative Writing section in grades 3—8, the grades 4 and 7 ELA Composition is being eliminated for spring 2016.
  • (Previously announced) The MCAS English Language Arts administration window for grades 3—8 will begin and end one week later to accommodate changes to the test and allow for additional instructional time. The new English Language Arts administration window for grades 3—8 will be March 28 to April 12.

Grades 3—8 MCAS Mathematics

  • Unlike in English Language Arts, where there will be a separate section within Session 2 for the PARCC test items, for grades 3—8 Mathematics, the PARCC test items will be included in both Sessions 1 and 2 and will not be broken out into a separate section.
  • The PARCC Mathematics items on the MCAS tests will include Type I, Type II, and Type III PARCC task types.


  • The Department intends to report performance on the PARCC items as a standalone reporting category that will not be factored into students' MCAS scores.

Upcoming Tasks for 2016 PARCC Districts
To Be Completed Before February:

Identify your district and school PARCC teams and begin to familiarize yourselves with resources. Throughout the winter and spring, the Department will send important communications via specifically targeted emails, as well as this update, to superintendents, district education technology coordinators, and PARCC test coordinators. The superintendent or designee should identify staff at the district and school levels who will be responsible for tasks related to test administration. In order to ensure that communications are received by the appropriate parties, we ask that you verify that your school or district's Department profile is up to date via the instructions at the bottom of this update.

To Be Completed in Early 2016:

Early in 2016, we will provide information on PARCC test administration training sessions and online training modules.

In late February, we will provide information and guidance on the following:

  • PearsonAccessnext accounts for school and district staff
  • Making any necessary updates to the newly streamlined Student Registration/Personal Needs Profile (SR/PNP) file that the Department will be uploading to PearsonAccessnext (Districts that administered PARCC in 2015 will remember this was done in December 2014; this step will be done later for 2016.)
  • Infrastructure trials (recommended for CBT schools and districts)

ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Test Administration

ACCESS for ELLS test administration will take place in January and February 2016. Please note the following important dates for preparing and administering the tests.

The Department has published the Massachusetts Supplement ACCESS for ELLs Test Administration Manual (January 2016), which can be found on the Department's webpage.

Please contact Alexis Glick in Student Assessment Services with any questions about ACCESS for ELLs testing at or by phone at 781-338-3625.

MCAS-Alt Portfolios-in-Progress Training Sessions

Registration is still available for Portfolios-in-Progress, a series of statewide portfolio review sessions for educators who are conducting the MCAS-Alt. Flyers with registration information have been faxed to schools and districts.

Review sessions will be offered on January 6, 7, 13, and 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
An "Introduction to MCAS-Alt" will also be offered for teachers who were unable to attend this session in October on January 7 and 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

See the flyer for locations for these sessions.

PARCC Survey on Parent Reports

Teachers and parents/guardians can give input on the PARCC score reports from 2015 by clicking on the PARCC website (teacher survey) and (parent survey).

Important Dates

  • January 4—15: Ordering window for spring MCAS, MCAS-Alt, and March retest materials
  • Mid-January: MCAS November retest scores will be available electronically
  • Mid-January: MCAS November retest ELA Composition images will be available electronically
  • Late February: MCAS November retest Parent/Guardian Reports delivered to districts

Additional Resources

View External Link
2016 PARCC Unit Testing Times
View External Link
Spring 2016 PARCC Resources on Avocet
View HTML Page
Updated Resource Guides for MCAS-Alt in ELA, Mathematics, and STE


Subscriber Information

Principals, MCAS test coordinators, PARCC test coordinators, special education directors, and ELL directors receive this update based on contact information submitted to the Department. To change your email address or to add another staff member, please follow the instructions below:

  • Public school districts, public schools, charter public schools, collaboratives, approved private special education schools: submit the new email address to your District-Level Directory Administrator.
  • Test sites, adult education programs, out-of-state schools, SEIS-DYS programs: go online to the EOE Information Technology web page (select "District/School Information Update" as the subject) to submit your update (be sure to include your District and School Code).

In addition to this update, PARCC districts may find the biweekly PARCC bulletins to be useful.

We welcome your feedback at

Last Updated: December 17, 2015
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