Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update: September 12, 2017, Special Back-to-School Edition

Contact Information

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

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

Latest Updates from Student Assessment Services

The Office of Student Assessment Services welcomes back principals, test coordinators, and other educators for the new school year, and also welcomes those in a new position or a new school. We thank you for your cooperation in administering the first year of next-generation MCAS tests in spring 2017, and we look forward to supporting schools in preparation for testing activities this school year. This special edition of the biweekly Student Assessment Update provides an overview of principals' responsibilities for the 2017-2018 school year related to statewide testing (MCAS, MCAS Alternate Assessment [MCAS-Alt], and ACCESS for ELLs). For additional MCAS planning, a pre-administration guide will be available later this fall. We hope this information will be helpful in preparing for upcoming activities. Thank you for all you do on behalf of the Commonwealth's students. We look forward to a successful school year.
  1. Review reports and related resources from the spring 2017 MCAS tests.
    • Review the Assessment & Accountability Data Review & Release Schedule (last updated August 14) to prepare for the official reporting of spring 2017 results. Official results are scheduled to be released in mid-October, and the Department is planning virtual training sessions to provide additional information on the results for the next-generation tests in ELA and Mathematics.

    • Familiarize yourself with resources related to the 2017 results:
    • Log in to Edwin Analytics in MassEdu Gateway to review spring 2017 MCAS results. Schools may find the following reports and information of particular interest:

      On the District & School Tab, use MCAS 2017 Curriculum & Item Analysis reports to see school, district, and state results on individual items, Curriculum Frameworks standards, and question types.
      Item Analysis Summary
      (IT301 / IT401)
      • displays possible points and the percent of possible points for each item at the school, district, and state levels
      • includes item description (ELA and Math grades 3-8 only), standard number, and question type
      • filter by student groups; sort by district or state score, standard, item number or type
      Item Analysis Graph
      (IT302 / IT402)
      • graph of the percent possible points for each item at the school, district, and state levels
      • filter by student groups; sort by district or state score, standard, item number or type
      Results by Standards
      (CU306 / CU406)
      • displays possible points and the percent of possible points by standard and question type for student groups at the school, district, and state levels

      On the Student Tab, use MCAS 2017 Interactive Student Roster and Individual Student Assessment History reports to see how students performed on individual items, Curriculum Frameworks standards, and question types compared to school, district, and state performance.
      Item Analysis Roster
      • displays item-level results by reporting category strand and question type for selected students
      • filter students by achievement level and/or student demographics
      Assessment Detail - Student Detail layout
      • displays points and the percent of possible points for selected students by reporting category strand, topic, and question type
      • filter students by achievement level and/or student demographics
      • compare student results to school, district, and state results
      Assessment Detail - Roster layout
      • displays percent possible points by student
      • calculates average percent possible points for selected students by reporting category strand, topic, and question type
      • filter students by achievement level and/or student demographics

  2. Prepare to administer computer-based tests (CBTs) for both MCAS and ACCESS for ELLs.
    • In spring 2018, elementary and middle schools are expected to administer grades 4, 5, 7, and 8 MCAS tests, including the Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) tests at grades 5 and 8, using the computer-based format. Schools may also choose to administer CBTs for grades 3 and 6. Instructions will be sent via email to superintendents on how to submit their testing mode decisions and CBT waiver requests for the grades listed above. The window for submitting decisions will be September 18-October 13.
      • Reach out to your superintendent's office to confirm which testing mode decisions are being made for your school.
    • The Department will create user accounts for high school staff that are new to their principal or test coordinator roles, based on Directory Administration, on or around September 15. Users with accounts from last year should log on to update their password for the 2017-2018 school year. More information on user accounts will follow in the pre-administration guide.

    • Districts that currently support a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) program may choose to email the Department to discuss participating in a BYOD pilot for spring 2018 MCAS testing for grades 3-8.

    • High schools should be prepared to administer computer-based MCAS field tests in ELA and Mathematics in spring 2018 (see attached document for the Commissioner's June 23 On the Desktop message regarding these tests). There will also be a tryout of computer-based high school STE items in June. Details will be provided this fall.

    • Remember that ACCESS for ELLs tests will be fully computer based beginning in 2019.

  3. Make preparations for upcoming testing-related events for grades 3-8 and for high schools.
    • The 2017-2018 testing schedule has been updated with administration deadlines and will be posted shortly.
    • The MCAS training opportunities calendar has been updated and will continue to be updated throughout the year as more sessions are added.

    A. Grades 3-8
    • Later this fall, resources for the spring 2018 tests will be posted, including test designs, rubrics, reporting category percentages, and achievement level descriptors used in the standard setting process, as well as updated standard Mathematics reference sheets for all students in grades 5-8.

    B. High schools
    • Order November retest materials between September 25 and October 6. High school principals will receive more information in mid-September.
      • Test materials are ordered using the Student Registration/Personal Needs Profile (SR/PNP) process. A guide to the SR/PNP process will be posted along with other resources, and a training session will be held on September 20 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
    • Prepare for students who need an Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP) to meet their CD requirements. Two opportunities to meet the assessment requirement are the MCAS ELA retest in March and the MCAS/EPP Mathematics test (April 23-May 4); other assessment options are described.

    • Principals will receive a delivery of letters around October 17 for students who have qualified to receive the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship. Schools should make copies of the letters for students' files and should instruct parents/guardians to maintain copies to provide to the colleges.

  4. Make preparations to assess students with disabilities.
  5. Become familiar with ACCESS for ELLs policies and prepare for testing.
    • All ELL students in grades K-12 must participate in ACCESS for ELLs testing. ACCESS for ELLs will be given January 4-February 7, 2018, and schools will order materials beginning on October 23, 2017. Instructions will be sent to ACCESS test coordinators via email this fall.
    • Identify students with disabilities who will require accommodations for the ACCESS for ELLs tests, and update IEPs and 504 plans as necessary.

    • ACCESS for ELLs test coordinators can participate in fall training opportunities, which will be posted shortly.

  6. Become familiar with resources and ways to receive technical assistance.
    • The table below shows the support available for each of the statewide tests, where resources are posted, and the contact information for technical assistance.
      • We encourage schools and districts to send non-urgent questions via email to assist us in managing response times by phone.
    • Schools may have noticed that the Department has updated the Student Assessment home page. We welcome you to provide feedback by emailing

    TestSupport Available
    MCAS and MCAS-AltMCAS Service Center

    • General questions about MCAS tests (CBT and PBT)
    • CBT technology support
    • Using PearsonAccess Next and other resources
    • General questions about MCAS-Alt
    • MCAS-Alt training opportunities
    • Ordering MCAS-Alt portfolio materials
    ESE Office of Student Assessment Services
    MCAS resource center


    • For policy questions and to share feedback
    ACCESS for ELLsWIDA Help Desk

    • WIDA personal accounts for training materials and certification
    • Standards
    • Training materials and certification
    DRC Help Desk

    • WIDA AMS (Assessment Management System): user accounts, session management, ordering materials
    • Technology issues
    • Test materials
    • Reporting and results


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: September 21, 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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