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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Contact:Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Massachusetts Posts Bid Document for Next-Generation MCAS

MALDEN - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today posted the request for responses (RFR) for an assessment vendor to help the state build a next-generation Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). The vendor's role will be similar to that of previous vendors that have worked with the state to develop, score and report results from the current MCAS.

The posting follows the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's November 17, 2015 vote to move forward with a next-generation MCAS and update the state's math and English language arts standards. The Department has been convening workgroups to inform the development of the assessment and is gathering suggestions to improve the state's learning standards.

As outlined in the Board's vote, the next-generation MCAS will move the state toward computer-based testing and will incorporate existing MCAS items, items that Massachusetts and other states developed through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and items unique to the next-generation assessment.

"MCAS has served the Commonwealth well but is now in its 19th year; it is time for an upgrade. The RFR process will allow Massachusetts to help maintain its leadership position nationally with a first-class, next-generation assessment system," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester.

The RFR is written with as much flexibility as possible to allow for input from the ongoing work of advisory groups and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's Assessment Subcommittee. The RFR calls for:

  • The next-generation English language arts and math MCAS to be given starting in spring 2017 to students in grades 3-8;
  • The grade 10 English language arts and math assessments to likely transition to similar test designs as early as 2018 while the existing MCAS remains a graduation requirement through the class of 2019 (the existing MCAS will continue to be offered as a retest through at least 2021);
  • Science and technology/engineering testing to transition to alignment with the recently approved frameworks and move to a next-generation, computer-based assessment over the next several years; and
  • Phasing in computer-based testing over two years in order to meet the Board's goal of statewide computer-based testing by 2019.

The RFR continues many of the practices that have made MCAS a highly regarded test. For instance:

  • Review committees of Massachusetts educators will assist with item development and review test quality throughout the development process;
  • The MCAS Service Center, overseen by ESE staff, will deliver timely, well-informed customer service;
  • Massachusetts educators and ESE staff will continue to determine test administration procedures and policies on accommodations; and
  • The policy on item release will remain as similar to the existing item release policy as possible based on agreements with item developers that govern item use and public release.

The RFR also addresses factors related to shifting to computer-based assessments. For instance, the RFR requires a well-tested, user-friendly, computer-based testing platform and assessment management system. Potential contractors must show that they have had proven success with computer-based testing in statewide assessments. In addition, the system must have a computerized toolkit and a drawing tool to ensure students can easily complete math and science tests on a computer.

Another component of the RFR asks interested vendors to describe their capacity and expertise to develop and administer a reinstated history and social science testing program, something the state has not had since the most recent version was suspended in 2009.

All bids are due on May 6, 2016, and ESE expects to award a contract in time for a mid-summer start.


Last Updated: March 15, 2016
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