Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update: March 27, 2018

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

Impact of Severe Weather on This Spring's MCAS Test Schedule

Elementary and middle schools that were impacted by the recent severe weather and school closings may choose to reschedule grades 3–8 tests to be administered later in the window. Additional information and guidance on how this winter's severe weather impacts MCAS testing was communicated to superintendents last week.

Reminder: MCAS-Alt Pickup Deadline Extended to April 2

Due to the number of storm-related school closures this month, the MCAS-Alt pickup deadline will be extended until Monday, April 2. Schools may schedule their pickup now, but it must be scheduled no later than 3:00 p.m., March 30. Please complete part two of the MCAS-Alt PCPA after you have reviewed students' portfolios.

Reminder: Data Validation Window for ACCESS Tests

As a reminder, from March 26 to April 4, data validation is required for all schools that administered ACCESS tests in 2018. In preparation for reporting accurate 2018 ACCESS results, test coordinators are asked to log on to the WIDA Assessment Management System to review their student data and, if necessary, correct any discrepancies. Data corrections made after the April 4 deadline will be available only at school or district expense. Instructions for validating student data were sent out on March 16 in a separate EL Assessment Update.

Participation Requirements for EL Students and Updated Graduation Requirements for EL Students from Puerto Rico

Page 13 of the MCAS Principal's Administration Manual, Grades 3–8 Spring 2018 should read: "ELA testing is also optional for EL students from Puerto Rico who are in their first year of enrollment in a Massachusetts school." Note that this policy is also applicable for students in grade 10. Schools should refer to this guidance for students in grades 11 and 12 who are evacuees from Puerto Rico and may want to obtain a diploma from Puerto Rico.

Reminder: Human Reader/Signer Accommodations for CBT

Students with the Human Reader or Human Signer accommodation must be placed in a Human Reader or Human Signer session in PearsonAccess Next. This necessary step will create a proctor testing ticket that allows test administrators to sign in to their own computer-based test for the purposes of reading the test aloud. To create Human Reader/Signer sessions:
  1. Select Testing > Sessions in PAN, search for a Human Reader or Human Signer session, and select the checkbox next to the session name.
  2. Select Create/Edit Sessions from the Task dropdown menu, and click Start.
  3. Select the Proctor Reads Aloud checkbox, then choose the correct "Form Group Type" from the dropdown menu and click Save.

Principal's Certification for Grades 3–8

The testing contractor found an error in the Principal's Certification of Proper Test Administration (PCPA) form and sent the attached message Download Word Document to schools. Questions should be directed to the MCAS Service Center at 800-737-5103.

Note on the Mathematics and STE Scripts from the Grades 3–8 CBT TAM

In the Grades 3–8 CBT TAM, the directions in one script for administering Mathematics and STE sessions are incomplete. The directions in question appear in the TAM on the following pages:
  • Mathematics Session 1: page 57
  • Mathematics Session 2: page 67
  • STE Session 1: page 77
  • STE Session 2: page 86
Step 14 on these pages should read:
"Read each question carefully and then answer it as well as you can.

If a question asks you to show or explain your work, you must do so to receive full credit. Enter your response in the box provided on your screen. Only responses entered in the box will be scored.

If you do not know the answer to a question, you may bookmark it and go on to the next question. When you are finished, you may review your answers and go back to any questions you bookmarked.

Before you submit your answers at the end of the test session, be sure that you have responded to every question and have not left anything blank or unanswered."
Please share this update with your test administrators.

Paper-Based Test Accommodation for Next-Generation MCAS

We remind educators that paper-based editions of MCAS tests are available as an accommodation for the following students in cases where the school is testing other students in that grade on a computer:
  • students with disabilities who are unable to use a computer (as determined by the IEP team or 504 coordinator); and
  • students who are English learners (ELs) in their first year in a U.S. school or who are unfamiliar with or unable to use a computer (as determined by educators familiar with the student's needs).
In most cases, schools should have already identified those students taking paper-based tests instead of computer-based tests, and the paper-based editions should have been ordered as part of the school's SR/PNP submissions. If a student with a disability or a first-year EL now requires a paper-based MCAS test, the principal or test coordinator should do the following:
  1. Contact the MCAS Service Center and request the paper-based test materials for that student.
  2. Modify the student's PNP in PearsonAccess Next to reflect that he or she will take a paper-based, rather than a computer-based test.
  3. Amend or complete the student's IEP or 504 plan to reflect this decision (if this is a student with a disability).
In cases where there is either uncertainty or disagreement about the most appropriate testing format for a student, we encourage principals to discuss this with the parent and provide the student with an opportunity to view the online tutorial and take an online practice test. Doing so will help the school to informally evaluate the student's level of ability and comfort working on the computer.

Resources from Burlington Public Schools

In follow-up to the test administration training sessions during which Josh Murphy from the Burlington Public Schools shared his district perspective, we are pleased to share his district's resources.

2018-2019 Testing Schedule

The Department is in the final stages of validating dates for the 2018-2019 testing schedule and expects to release the schedule in the next edition of the Student Assessment Update.

2018 VOCAL School Climate Survey

The Views of Climate and Learning (VOCAL) is an annual survey sponsored by the Department. The 2018 VOCAL surveys will be administered to students in grades 5, 8, and 10 during the spring 2018 MCAS test administration. Last year, approximately 70% of all students across the three grades participated in the VOCAL pilot. The VOCAL survey measures students' perceptions of the three dimensions of school climate, namely Engagement, Safety, and Environment. Districts and schools who choose to have their students participate will receive summary measures of their students' responses (an overall school climate index score, and index scores for the three dimensions) and item-level response data. A FAQ is available on the Office of Planning and Research webpage with more information on the content and administration of the survey and on the reporting of VOCAL data. Please note that, in the MCAS manuals, the VOCAL surveys are referred to as the "student questionnaire."

Important Dates

  • March 28: Grade 10 ELA Reading Comprehension Sessions 1 and 2
  • March 29: Deadline for schools to complete the Principal's Certification ("Materials Received" section), report packing discrepancies if necessary, and order additional materials if necessary for grades 3–8 MCAS tests
  • March 29: Grade 10 ELA Reading Comprehension Session 3
  • April 3: Deadline for schools to order additional grade 10 ELA make-up test materials if necessary
  • April 4: Results of the February Biology test available electronically in DropBox Central
  • April 11: Interactive reports of the February Biology test available in Edwin Analytics
  • April 23: Results of the March retest available electronically in DropBox Central
  • April 30: Interactive reports of the March retest available in Edwin Analytics
  • May 18: Parent/Guardian reports of the February Biology test and March retest delivered to districts via UPS


View HTML Page
Registration for the April 4 "Office Hours" Session
Download Word Document
View HTML Page
Sample training materials from Burlington Public Schools

Subscriber Information

Principals, MCAS test coordinators, special education directors, and EL program 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, educational collaboratives, and 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." In addition, ESE sends occasional communications regarding state policies that affect educators, parents, and other community stakeholders, as well as opportunities for community members to participate in state initiatives. Please visit our newsletter sign-up page if you are interested in receiving other news and information from the Department. We welcome your questions and feedback at Thank you.

Last Updated: March 27, 2018

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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