Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Process to Request a Waiver from the MCAS Computer-Based Testing Expectation: Responses Due October 12

To:Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, and Directors of Charter Schools, Approved Private Special Education Schools, Educational Collaboratives, Institutional Settings, and Adult/External Diploma Programs
Copy:Principals, MCAS Test Coordinators, and Technology Directors
From:Michol Stapel, Associate Commissioner for Student Assessment
Date:September 20, 2018

As part of the transition to statewide computer-based testing, schools are expected to administer MCAS computer-based tests in spring 2019 (see the background section below for more information). However, the Department is providing an opportunity for districts/organizations to apply for a waiver from this expectation by Friday, October 12, due to one or more of the following situations for all of the students in a particular school/grade:

  • Circumstances at the school(s) will preclude computer-based testing in spring 2019 (e.g., technology constraints, construction or physical plant issues).
  • All of the students at the school(s) take paper-based tests as an accommodation and/or all of the students take the MCAS-Alt, in accordance with students' IEPs or 504 plans.

Instructions for Requesting a Waiver from the CBT Expectation

To submit a waiver request, complete this brief form. Note the following:

  • Requests are submitted at the district/organization level and must be approved by the superintendent/director.
  • Requests may be made at a granular level: by school, grade, and subject (e.g., School A is requesting a waiver for grade 6 because this grade is being housed in a temporary location while the new school is being built).

The Department will notify superintendents/directors of determinations in early to mid-December, and may reach out sooner if there are any questions.

Technology Requirements and Resources

We encourage school administrators to share the resources below with your test administration teams and technology directors. Additional resources will be provided throughout the school year via the biweekly Student Assessment Update.

TestNav System RequirementsTechnology directors should use this resource to confirm that devices meet the minimum requirements for testing.
Device Planner Download Excel DocumentSchools adding new grades to CBT that are considering device limitations can use this resource when determining the number of devices needed to administer tests.
Resources from the Office of Digital LearningThese resources on acquiring technology, digital citizenship, and online courses may be particularly helpful for schools new to CBT.

Background on the Computer-Based Testing Expectation

In November 2015, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the transition to the next-generation MCAS to be administered primarily on computer. As part of the transition, in spring 2018, schools successfully administered over 900,000 computer-based tests, and in spring 2019, schools are expected to administer the tests listed below1 using the computer-based format:

  • Grades 3–8 ELA and Mathematics
  • Grades 5 and 8 STE
  • Grade 10 ELA and Mathematics2
  • High School Biology and Introductory Physics field tests

Questions regarding the computer-based expectation and the waiver process may be directed to



1 Paper-based tests will be available as an accommodation as required by a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP); as needed for first-year EL students who are unfamiliar with computers; and the small number of students who do not have IEPs but who are unable to take a computer-based test for other reasons, following the guidelines in the Accessibility and Accommodations Manual.

2 Note for high schools: the operational high school STE tests in February and June and the high school retests in November and March will use the paper-based format (no computer-based version will be available).

Last Updated: September 24, 2018

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

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