Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update: April 27, 2017

Contact Information

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

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

Latest Updates from Student Assessment Services

Reminder: District Justification Due by May 8 if MCAS-Alt Participation Rate Will Exceed One Percent of Students Eligible for MCAS in 2017-2018

Districts are reminded to submit a "justification letter" to the Department's Student Assessment office if more than one percent of students in the district who are eligible for MCAS will be designated for the MCAS-Alt in 2017-2018 by their IEP teams. This is a new requirement of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and is detailed in the Commissioner's "One Percent" Memo of March 2. The justification should not only describe the specific reasons why the percentage of students taking the MCAS-Alt will exceed one percent of eligible students but also provide the specific assurances described in the memo.

Standard-Setting Panel Recruitment

Beginning August 14, 2017, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will conduct a week-long standard setting event for the next-generation MCAS tests in grades 3-8 ELA and mathematics. The standard setting will be conducted by panels of Massachusetts educators and other stakeholders, working in coordination with expert facilitators. We are pleased to invite educators and stakeholders from across the state to apply to participate on one of these panels. Panelists will be organized into six committees: grades 3-4 ELA, grades 5-6 ELA, grades 7-8 ELA, grades 3-4 mathematics, grades 5-6 mathematics, and grades 7-8 mathematics. Each panel will consist of 20-24 members, divided into tables of 4-5 panelists, one of which will serve as a table leader. We are looking for panelists with content expertise, familiarity with the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks, and in most cases, direct teaching experience in the grade and subject matter chosen. More information about this opportunity see the attached.

Grades 3-8 Materials Summary Forms and the PCPA

Grades 3-8 schools received one Materials Summary form per grade (e.g., grade 5 has one form only for ELA, mathematics, and STE). Schools administering paper-based (PBT) tests should complete information on the Materials Summary about ELA materials being returned, and then hold onto the form until mathematics and STE materials are returned. As a reminder, the deadline for return of ELA materials is May 5, and the deadline for return of mathematics and STE materials is May 31. Similarly, there is one PCPA per grade. PBT schools should enter information in the PCPA about ELA materials being returned, then click "save" (but not "submit"), and log back into the form at the end of the Mathematics and STE administrations (at which time, principals will click "submit" to complete the form).

STE Standards To be Assessed on 2018 STE MCAS Tests

The Department is pleased to present information regarding the "overlapping" standards from the 2001/2006 and 2016 Science and Technology/Engineering standards that will be assessed on the 2018 MCAS grade 5 Download MS WORD Document and grade 8 Download MS WORD Document STE tests. The 2018 tests will consist of items that align to both sets of standards. The focus of the test questions will be on the overlapping content and skills between the two sets of standards. As a reminder, this year's test (2017) is based on the 2001/2006 STE standards.

iOS 10.3 Update

Apple recently released iOS 10.3, their newest operating system update. At this time, the update is not supported by Pearson, so it is recommended that schools administering computer-based tests do not upgrade iPads until after the spring test administration window. Schools that have already upgraded can contact the Service Center for more details on expected TestNav behaviors while using iOS 10.3. Typically, it takes a few weeks for an updated operating system or browser to be thoroughly tested. If support is added for an update, it will be updated on the TestNav System Requirements page and listed on the recent updates page.

Phone Support from the Department during Test Administration

The regular hours of operation for the Department's Office of Student Assessment Services (SAS) are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. To provide the best early morning phone support to schools and districts, during the test administration window the main phone number for Student Assessment Services (781-338-3625) will be transferred to the MCAS Service Center each evening after regular business hours so that calls can be answered beginning at 7:00 a.m. Between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., MCAS Service Center representatives will answer questions regarding logistics and take messages for calls for Department SAS staff, which will be returned during our regular business hours.

Reminder for PBT schools: Typed Responses

Schools that have students using the accommodation for typed responses must return them according to instructions on pages 98-99 of the spring 2017 Principal's Administration Manual (PAM) Grades 3-8 (or on pages 104-105 of the high school PAM). So that typed responses can be scored properly, note that only one typed response may be submitted per page. If students' responses have already been printed, and there is more than one per page, schools should follow these steps:
  1. Cut the pages so that there is one response per page.
  2. Tape each response onto its own page.
  3. Since taped responses cannot be scanned, photocopy the responses, and submit the photocopied responses as the student's final responses. (See instructions in the PAMs for how to submit the responses.)
  4. Write "DRAFT" in large letters across the top of each original response (i.e., on the taped pages).
Return these original responses in the nonscorable shipment along with any other accommodation materials. (For a packing diagram, see page 66 of the grades 3-8 PAM or page 71 of the high school PAM.) Questions may be directed to the MCAS Service Center at 800-737-5103.

Grades 3-8 Schools: Reminder about Updating Data in PearsonAccess Next

Schools are reminded that the following student data in PearsonAccess Next (for CBT as well as for PBT administrations) should be updated throughout administration.
  • data for students who were added or removed from your school's enrollment
  • accommodations that were wrong in the initial SR/PNP or have been added to or removed from students' IEPs or 504 plans
  • accommodations that a student refused during testing
Instructions for updating student data are provided on page 59 for CBT and on 69 for PBT in the spring 2017 Principal's Administration Manual, Grades 3-8. Note that certain CBT accommodations can only be updated during the formal discrepancy period in August (i.e., TTS, screen reader, assistive technology). These instructions will also be reviewed during the "Office Hours" training session on Friday, April 28, at 10:00-11:30 a.m. Anyone wishing to register for this session should email

Submitting Tests (CBT)

The Department and the Service Center have received a number of calls from schools where students are clicking the "Submit Section" or "Submit Final Answers" button before they have completed a session. Test administrators may wish to remind students about the appropriate procedures before beginning a session and can refer to the Test Administrator's Manual script to repeat directions to students during the test session.

Questionnaires for Grades 5 and 8

The PAM for grades 3-8 omitted instructions on whether to recycle/discard or retain the questionnaires after administration. Schools should recycle or discard the questionnaires after administration. (The high school PAM included this instruction.)

Important Dates

  • April 28: February Biology and March retest results available in Edwin Analytics
  • May 3: Last day for spring 2017 MCAS English Language Arts tests (grades 3-8)
  • May 15: Parent/Guardian Reports for the February Biology test and March Retest delivered to districts via UPS
  • May 26: Last day for spring 2017 MCAS Mathematics tests (grades 3-8)
  • May 26: Last day for spring 2017 MCAS Science and Tech/Eng tests (grades 5 and 8)

Additional Resources

View External Link
Equation Editor Symbol Key
View External Link
Guide to Conducting a CBT Session
View HTML Page
Commissioner's March 6, 2017, Message on MCAS Participation
View External Link
MCAS Resource Center (Practice Tests, Tutorials, and more)

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: submit the new email address to your District-Level Directory Administrator.
  • Educational collaboratives, approved private special education schools, 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: May 2, 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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