Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update: September 17, 2019, Special Back-to-School Edition

Contact Information

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

for policy questions, including student participation

Latest Updates from Student Assessment Services

For All Schools

  1. Spring 2020 MCAS Test Design Updates
    1. English Language Arts
      As part of the Department's efforts to reduce testing time for students, the test designs for the 2020 MCAS grades 3–8 and 10 English Language Arts (ELA) tests have changed. Changes to the ELA test designs include:

      • the elimination of one operational essay in each grade
      • the addition of machine-scored items, including both language and reading items
      • a small adjustment to reporting category percentages
      • a small change to the total number of points on the grades 6–8 and 10 tests

      In addition to helping reduce testing time, these changes are also intended to make the student testing experience on the grades 3–8 tests and the grade 10 test more similar. The 2020 ELA test designs and other related information are available.

    2. Mathematics
      Updates to the Mathematics test design are available.

    3. Science and Technology/Engineering (STE)
      As a reminder, students in grade 9 will be able to take new, next-generation, computer-based Biology and Introductory Physics tests. Details on all the spring 2020 high school STE plans are available. The Department is offering a training session on these next-generation tests on November 4 at 10:00–11:30 a.m.

  2. MCAS 2019 Reporting Session on September 20
    The Department will hold a reporting session on the release of 2019 MCAS results for principals and other school-level staff on September 20. Topics will include a summary of state-level MCAS results; a review of the transitional high school Competency Determination requirements for students in the class of 2021 and 2022; and a review of the new grade 10 Parent/Guardian Report.

  3. ACCESS for ELLs Updates
    Please ensure that the names and contact information for new principals and ACCESS for ELLs Test Coordinators (school and district) are updated in School and District Profiles, that ACCESS Test Coordinators have WIDA AMS accounts, and that ACCESS Test Administrators have WIDA personal accounts. Test coordinators and test administrators should take online training modules and certification quizzes for tests they will administer in January–February 2020.

    Schools will not pre-order test materials as they have in the past. Materials will be pre-ordered based on students who were tested last year in the school. Additional materials may be ordered during the additional materials ordering window.

    Please refer to the table below for 2020 ACCESS for ELLs important dates. Refer to the back-to-school edition of the EL Assessment Update for more information.

    ACCESS Test Coordinator online training sessions Returning Test Coordinators:
    • November 19, 2019 at 1:00–2:30 p.m.
    • November 20 at 1:00–2:30 p.m.
    • December 13 at 10:00–11:30 a.m.

    New Test Coordinators:
    • December 5 at 10:00–11:30 a.m.
      (Test Coordinators should complete their online training modules and certification quizzes prior to attending)
    ACCESS test materials arrive in schoolsJanuary 2, 2020
    Additional materials ordering windowJanuary 2–31
    ACCESS test administration windowJanuary 6–February 7
    Deadline for schools to return test materialsFebruary 7
  4. Process to Request a Waiver from the MCAS CBT Expectation: Submit by October 11
    As part of the transition to computer-based testing (CBT), schools are expected to administer the following MCAS tests online in 2020: 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 2020 computer-based tests in Biology and Introductory Physics to students in grade 9 (if grade 9 students will participate in these tests). See additional information about high school STE in 2020.

    Districts/organizations may apply for a waiver from the CBT expectation by Friday, October 11, 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 will take the MCAS-Alt, in accordance with students' IEPs/504 plans. See details in the attached memorandum.

  5. Reminder: About This Newsletter
    The Department 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 or develop a plan for communicating relevant information to them. Individuals who would like to receive the update directly can subscribe by following the instructions at the bottom of this newsletter.

For High Schools

  1. Registration for the November Retests: Window Begins on September 23
    Schools must complete the Student Registration/Personal Needs Profile (SR/PNP) process between September 23 and October 4 to order student test materials for the November retests.

    To assist schools in registering students for the November retests, the Department has placed two CSV files in the MCAS 2019 DropBox in the DESE Security Portal. The files include students who have not yet earned a passing score on the MCAS ELA and/or Mathematics tests. There may also be students in your school who are eligible to take the November ELA retest for scholarship purposes, based on the "On the Desktop" message that was sent on August 30. Further guidance related to that notice has been issued, including instructions for ordering additional materials for ELA if needed.

    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 (see the contact information in the header of this update).

    The guide to the SR/PNP process will be available by September 23 in the MCAS Resource Center, and an online training module is available.

    New principals, test coordinators, and technology coordinators, and individuals who would like a refresher on the SR/PNP may register for a training session that will be held this Thursday, September 19, at 10:00 a.m. Registration will close by 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 18.

  2. Test Administration Deadlines for Fall/Winter Administrations Now Available
    The deadlines to complete test administration tasks for the November retests, February Biology, and March retests are now available (note that the schedule for spring 2020 test administration deadlines will follow in an upcoming update). Schools are expected to adhere to the prescribed test dates and windows; schools with special circumstances should email

  3. Reminder: Grade 10 ELA and Mathematics Scaled Scores for the Interim Competency Determination Requirement and Retest Plans for This School Year
    For the classes of 2021 and 2022, students must earn a next-generation MCAS scaled score that is equivalent to a legacy MCAS scaled score of at least 240 on the grade 10 ELA and Mathematics tests or earn the next-generation MCAS equivalent of a legacy scaled score between 220 and 238 and fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan. The new scaled scores needed to graduate with an Educational Proficiency Plan are 455 in ELA and 469 in mathematics, and the new scaled scores needed to earn a CD without an Educational Proficiency Plan are 472 in ELA and 486 in mathematics for the classes of 2021 and 2022. See the previous update for details.

    High schools are encouraged to begin planning coursework and MCAS test administrations for students who did not meet the CD requirements on the spring 2019 MCAS grade 10 tests in ELA and Mathematics.

    In November 2019 and March 2020, both the ELA and Mathematics retests will be legacy, paper-based tests. The standards assessed on the retests are as follows (note that these tests are based on standards from previous curriculum frameworks):

    The retest designs for ELA Download Word Document and Mathematics Download Word Document are available.

Other Important Dates

ReportingSeptember 19Official embargoed spring 2019 MCAS results available in Edwin Analytics and Dropbox Central
September 20Reporting session
(Registration will close on September 19 at 3:00 p.m.)
September 24Public release of official spring 2019 MCAS results available on School and District Profiles
September 30Districts receive Parent/Guardian Reports; electronic versions of Parent/Guardian Reports are available in PearsonAccess Next, at the school level, in Published Reports
Other Upcoming Training SessionsOctober 4Training session on accessibility and accommodations
November 20Introduction to MCAS Computer-Based Testing for New Staff training session

Additional Resources

Reporting resources
2019 assessment and accountability reporting schedule
View HTML Page
Parent/Guardian Report templates and translations
View External Link
Recording from the September 10 session — 2019 MCAS Grade 10 Reporting and CD Requirements for the Class of 2021
View HTML Page
Spring 2019 student work samples and scoring guides

View HTML Page
Updated graduation requirements page with next-generation MCAS scores

Download Word Document
MCAS Alternate Assessment back-to-school newsletter
View HTML Page
Opportunity to comment on the waiver extension related to the MCAS-Alt

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: September 17, 2019

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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