Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update: March 15, 2017

Contact Information

MCAS Service Center
Phone: 800-737-5103
for logistical support, including questions about technology

Student Assessment Services
Phone: 781-338-3625
for policy questions, including questions about student participation

Latest Updates from Student Assessment Services

Next-Generation Practice Test and Scoring Updates

All practice tests for grades 3–8 ELA and mathematics, both computer- and paper-based, including text-to-speech versions, are now available at MCAS Resource Center: Student Tutorial & Practice Tests. These practice tests also include answer keys and scoring rubrics with information about how short-response, open-response, and essays will be scored. Additional resources on this page include the student TestNav8 tutorial, equation editor reference guide, information about gridded responses for the mathematics tests, and a guide to using text-to-speech. The grades 3–8 ELA scoring rubrics, noted above, have been updated to reflect a change in the points associated with the narrative essays. The narrative essays will not be weighted, as originally planned. They will now be worth up to 6 points for grades 3–5 and up to 7 points for grades 6–8. The content and expectations of the narrative essay will remain the same. This update has been posted on the ELA test design page.

Test Administration Manuals Available to Download

Spring 2017 MCAS test administration manuals for principals and test administrators are now available on the Department's website. New for 2017, there are separate manuals for the high school tests and for the grades 3–8 tests. For grades 3–8, there is one Test Administrator's Manual (TAM) for computer-based testing and two TAMs for paper-based testing (the grades 4–8 PBT TAM includes instructions for the grades 5 and 8 STE tests, but the grade 3 TAM does not).
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High school manuals
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Grades 3–8 manuals

Clarification to Calculator Use Policy for Grades 3–8

As a reminder, calculators are allowed only during session 2 for grades 7 and 8. Students taking the computer-based test have a calculator embedded in the student testing platform. Students who prefer to use handheld calculators when taking the computer-based test may do so. For the grade 7 paper-based test, students should use a five-function calculator (i.e., a four-function calculator with a square root key). For the grade 8 paper-based test, students should use a scientific calculator. To the extent possible, all handheld calculators should be equivalent to the calculator designated for each grade level. However, schools may have students use other types of calculators based on the school's capacity to offer a specific type of calculator.

Save the Date: MCAS Standard Setting This Summer

This summer, the Department will be holding standard-setting meetings for the next-generation MCAS tests in grades 3–8. Educators, content area experts, and administrators will determine what score a student must earn to achieve a particular achievement level. For those who may be interested in participating, please be aware that the dates for standard setting will be August 14–18. Participants must be available for the entire week to be considered for a committee. More information on the recruitment process will be available in coming weeks.

Reminder to Administer an Infrastructure Trial (CBT)

The infrastructure trial acts as a "dry run" to prepare for computer-based testing by simulating test?day network utilization and administration protocols. This will help to confirm that TestNav is configured to run successfully on student devices, the network is functioning as expected, and that staff and students are familiar with assessment features and protocols. The Department strongly recommends running an infrastructure trial prior to live testing. Information on conducting an infrastructure trial, including the Guide to the Infrastructure Trial, can be found at MCAS Resource Center: Technology Setup.

ESSA's Limit on Alternate Assessments

A memo from Commissioner Chester is now available about a provision of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that limits the number of students statewide who can participate in alternate assessments to 1% of students eligible for MCAS. The provision also requires that parents of students who take the alternate assessments be notified that "participation in an alternate assessment may delay or otherwise affect their child's completion of the requirements for a diploma." The commissioner's memo provides
  • an explanation of the provision;
  • data on each district's participation rate;
  • resources to assist individualized education program (IEP) teams make informed assessment decisions, be retrained on an annual basis, and provide notification to parents; and
  • next steps, including providing the Department with justification if the district is currently above the 1 percent threshold.
Although ESE plans to request a waiver of this provision from the U.S. Department of Education, it is nevertheless important that administrators and other interested educators become familiar with, and act upon, the information contained in the commissioner's memo. Questions can be addressed to or the Student Assessment office at 781-338-3625.

MCAS-Alt Submission Reminder

The deadline for submitting MCAS-Alt portfolios with Student Identification Booklets (SIBs), as well as all unused three-ring binders, is Friday, March 31. Please remember to schedule your school's pick-up and complete the MCAS-Alt Principal's Certification no later than March 30. A photocopy of the portfolio must be kept at school in case the score for the portfolio does not represent the evidence submitted. See the Principal's Manual for MCAS-Alt Download MS WORD Document for further information on MCAS-Alt score appeals.

ACCESS for ELLs Data Validation Window for Paper- and Computer-Based Tests

From March 27 April 5, data validation will be required for schools that administered ACCESS tests. In preparation for reporting accurate 2017 ACCESS results, test coordinators will be asked to log on to WIDA AMS to review and, if necessary, correct any discrepancies in their student data. Data corrections made after the April 5 deadline will be available only at school or district expense. The procedure for correcting your school's student records is available in the ELL Assessment Update: Data Validation for Paper-Based and Computer-Based ACCESS for ELLs. Please contact Student Assessment Services with any questions about ACCESS for ELLs testing at or by phone at 781-338-3625.

Important Dates

  • March 8–21: Update the SR/PNP for grade 10 Mathematics, if necessary.
  • March 20: Operational MCAS test content available for pre-caching
  • March 20: MCAS initial materials orders due in districts
  • March 20–30: Complete PCPA and order additional materials for grades 3–8, if necessary
  • March 21–April 3: March–April 2016 MCAS English Language Arts tests (grade 10)
  • April 3–May 3: Spring 2017 MCAS English Language Arts tests (grades 3–8)
  • April 4–May 26: Spring 2017 MCAS Mathematics tests (grades 3–8)
  • April 5–May 26: Spring 2017 MCAS Science and Tech/Eng tests (grades 5 and 8)
  • April 10: Results of the February Biology test available electronically in DropBox Central
  • April 25: Results of the March Retest available electronically in DropBox Central
  • May 5: Parent/Guardian Reports for the February Biology test and March retest delivered to districts via UPS

Additional Resources

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Commissioner's March 6, 2017, Message on MCAS Participation
View External Link
MCAS Resource Center (Practice Tests, Tutorials, and more)
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District Testing Decisions for Spring Grades 3–8 MCAS Testing Mode

Subscriber Information

Principals, MCAS test coordinators, special education directors, and ELL directors automatically receive this Student Assessment Update based on contact information submitted to the Department. To change your email address or to add another staff member who serves in one of these roles, 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).
For others who wish to subscribe, email with the following information in the body of the email: "subscribe SASUpdate Your_Name" (Example: subscribe SASUpdate John_Smith). To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with the following information in the body: "unsubscribe SASUpdate." We welcome your questions and feedback at Thank you.

Last Updated: March 16, 2017

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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