Stay informed about coronavirus — COVID-19. Learn more

Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update: September 20, 2018, Special Back-to-School Edition

Contact Information

MCAS Service CenterEmail: mcas@measuredprogress.orgPhone: 800-737-5103
for logistical and technology support, including questions about PearsonAccess Next and TestNav
Student Assessment ServicesEmail: mcas@doe.mass.eduPhone: 781-338-3625
for policy questions, including student participation

Latest Updates from Student Assessment Services

Welcome Back to School!

The Office of Student Assessment Services would like to extend our best regards to principals and educators as we begin the new school year. We thank everyone for your support with the administration and reporting of MCAS results in 2017–2018, and for all you do to support the Commonwealth's students. We look forward to a successful school year.

About This Update

DESE automatically sends the Student Assessment Update biweekly to principals, MCAS test coordinators, special education directors, and EL program directors based on contact information submitted to the Department. We encourage you to share this update with your test administration teams and inform them that they can sign up to receive the update by following the instructions at the bottom of this newsletter.

For All Schools

  1. Opportunity to Serve on MCAS Committees: Apply by October 5
    We are looking for public school educators to serve as members of the MCAS Assessment Development Committees in ELA, mathematics, and science, and on the MCAS Bias and Sensitivity Committees. Committee members are directly involved in helping DESE develop MCAS test items.

    The deadline to complete the online application is Friday, October 5, 2018. Please share this opportunity with colleagues who may be interested. We encourage educators who are of diverse backgrounds and/or teach students of diverse backgrounds to apply.

  2. Process to Request a Waiver from the CBT Expectation: Submit by October 12
    As part of the transition to computer-based testing (CBT), schools are expected to administer the following MCAS computer-based tests in spring 2019: grades 3–8 ELA and Mathematics, grades 5 and 8 STE, and grade 10 ELA and Mathematics. High schools are also expected to administer the spring 2019 computer-based field tests in Biology and Introductory Physics.

    Districts/organizations may apply for a waiver from the CBT expectation by Friday, October 12, if they have technology constraints or related issues, or if all of the students will take paper-based tests as an accommodation and/or all of the students take the MCAS-Alt, in accordance with students' IEPs/504 plans. See details.

  3. Testing Schedule and Administration Deadlines Now Available
    The testing schedule Download Word Document that was posted last spring has been updated to include test administration deadlines as well as the test dates. Schools are expected to adhere to the prescribed test dates and windows; schools with special circumstances should email

    MCAS tests will remain untimed this school year, and recommended testing times for spring 2019 will be provided later this fall after we complete our review of the amount of time students used on the 2018 tests.

  4. New Accessibility and Accommodations Policies; Register for Training Session by September 26
    New for 2018–2019, there is now one set of accessibility and accommodations policies for all of the MCAS tests/retests. Review this manual Download Word Document to plan ahead for the accessibility features available for all students, and share the manual with your IEP and 504 teams and teams working with EL students.

    DESE will hold a training session on Friday, September 28, to discuss these policies (this session will focus on the November retests; another session will be held in the winter focusing on the spring tests).

For High Schools

  1. Registration for the November Retests: Submit by October 5
    Schools must complete the Student Registration/Personal Needs Profile (SR/PNP) process to order student test materials for the November retests between September 24 and October 5.

    New principals or test coordinators who do not have access to PearsonAccess Next (the site used to complete the SR/PNP) should contact other PearsonAccess Next users at their school or district. The MCAS Service Center can provide support if there are questions on adding new users.

  2. Training Sessions on the Grade 10 Next-Generation Tests: Register This Month
    DESE will hold training sessions in October and November to support the transition to the next-generation computer-based tests for grade 10 ELA and Mathematics. The sessions will cover the following topics:

    • updated test designs
    • item types and essays
    • retest information
    • additional resources

    While space is limited for the regional face-to-face sessions, large teams can participate in the remote sessions. Register and share this with your curriculum coordinators and other interested educators.

  3. High School MCAS Biology and Introductory Physics Field Tests
    The release of the testing schedule in March stated that each school would administer the high school Biology and Introductory Physics field tests to a portion of their students. Below is the updated policy.

    All high schools are expected to administer the field tests to all grade 9 students taking the operational high school Biology and Introductory Physics tests, with the exception of students who require certain accommodations. The participation of students in grade 10 is optional/at principals' discretion. Students in grades 11 and 12 are not eligible to participate.

    The suggested administration date is June 6, following the administration of the operational tests on June 4 and 5. Each subject's field test will consist of 18 questions and is expected to take 45 minutes to complete.

    We recognize that the field test will create extra work for you and staff, but it 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.


Resources Currently Available:

  • Updated spring 2019 test designs for ELA, Mathematics, and STE (including standards for Biology and Introductory Physics)
    Note about grade 10 Mathematics: The grade 10 Mathematics test will align to clusters Download Word Document within the Conceptual Categories in the 2017 Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Framework. Standards coded with a (+) symbol will not be assessed on the MCAS. Assessable standards include all standards that overlap between the Model Algebra I/Model Geometry and Model Mathematics I/Model Mathematics II courses. For example, the test would not assess the standard MII.N.CN.A.1 because it is not included in either the Model Algebra I or Model Geometry courses.

  • Resources for student preparation, including
    • reference sheets for grades 5–8 and 10 Mathematics tests and three high school STE tests
    • equation editor guides and symbols keys for grades 3–8 and 10 Mathematics tests and the grade 8 STE test and the Introductory Physics field test

  • Released items from the spring 2018 MCAS tests
    Access CBT released items using the MCAS Resource Center and the MCAS Digital Library, and view PBT released items in the released item documents.

  • Blank CBT responses boxes
    Along with the practice tests, blank CBT response boxes are available on the MCAS Resource Center website. These include blank constructed response, essay, and equation editor boxes. Educators can use these blank response boxes in the classroom with students to practice with prior to taking the practice or operational MCAS tests.

  • Assessment and accountability reporting schedule

  • Opportunity to comment on the waiver extension related to the MCAS-Alt

  • Training sessions for early fall (Additional sessions will be announced in future Updates.)

Resources Coming Later this Fall:

  • Practice tests for grades 3–8 and 10 ELA and Mathematics, and grades 5 and 8 STE

  • Resources for administering the November retest

  • Sample student work from the spring 2018 MCAS tests

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, approved private special education schools, and alternative education programs: 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: September 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


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.