Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Commissioner's Message on High School MCAS Field Tests and Question Tryouts

News from Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson & the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education On the Desktop - November 9, 2017 Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, Assistant Superintendents, Collaborative Leaders, and High School Principals, I am writing to share important updates about the plan to transition MCAS high school tests to next-generation tests in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science and technology/engineering (STE). As you know from the June "On the Desktop" message, in spring 2018, each high school will administer a computer-based field test in ELA or mathematics. In addition, ESE is recruiting high schools to participate in voluntary computer-based question tryouts in biology and introductory physics. The purpose of the field tests and question tryouts is three-fold:
  1. to try out test questions, including new technology-enhanced questions, that will be used on the next-generation assessments;
  2. to help high schools prepare for next-generation computer-based assessments prior to an operational administration; and
  3. to develop next-generation practice tests and resources that schools and districts can use during the 2018-19 school year.
Accordingly, no student, school, or district results will be generated from the field tests or the question tryouts.

Participation in the Field Tests and Question Tryouts

For the ELA and mathematics field tests, high schools will be randomly assigned to administer either ELA or mathematics. Regardless of the subject area selected, each school will be expected to have at least 25 percent of its 10th grade students participate. Guidance on student selection will be provided to principals later this fall. Schools may also elect to have more than 25 percent of their students participate. I recognize that this exercise will create extra work for you and staff, but field testing is an essential element in designing a high quality assessment. In future years, field testing of new questions will be done within the regular MCAS test administration. For the biology and introductory physics question tryouts, high school principals are encouraged to participate, regardless of where the school is in the process of adopting the 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework. The Department will provide registration information later this fall. Participation in the field tests and question tryouts does not replace or affect participation in the operational spring 2018 tests.

Administration Dates

The dates for administration are as follows:
ELA and Mathematics Field Tests
(All schools must participate in ELA or mathematics.)
April 23-May 11
Biology and Introductory Physics Question Tryouts
(Voluntary participation)
May 29-June 15, except for June 6-7
(Schools may not administer the question tryouts on the dates for operational high school STE testing.)

Detailed information on the test design and administration of the field tests and question tryouts will be provided to principals later today. Questions about technology may be directed to the Office of Digital Learning at, and questions about the field tests and question tryouts may be directed to the Office of Student Assessment Services at Thank you for your support. Sincerely, Jeff Wulfson
Acting Commissioner

Last Updated: November 9, 2017

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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