Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update: October 29, 2019

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. Upcoming MCAS Training Sessions
    As a reminder, the following training sessions will be held next month:

    Test(s)SessionsTraining Dates and Registration LinkAudience
    Biology and Introductory Physics tests for students in grade 9 (next-generation, computer-based tests) Overview of the Next-Generation MCAS High School Biology and Introductory Physics Tests
    • Test design
    • Question types
    • Demonstration of practice test items
    • Additional resources
    Monday, November 4,
    10:00–11:30 a.m.
    Principals, MCAS test coordinators, curriculum coordinators, and other educators
    MCAS tests (grades 3–8 and high school) Introduction to MCAS Computer-Based Testing for New Staff
    • Steps to take this fall/early winter to prepare for computer-based testing in spring 2020
    • Resources, support, and next steps
    Wednesday, November 20,
    10:00–11:30 a.m.
    Principals, test coordinators, technology coordinators

    For new staff or those who want a full refresher

    We are pleased to announce new details for the "Introduction to MCAS Computer-Based Testing for New Staff" session. As part of the session, Department staff would like to include answers to specific questions about preparations and readiness for computer-based testing. Please email by November 13 with requests for specific topics to be covered.

    In addition, the "Introduction to MCAS Computer-Based Testing for New Staff" session will include a special district presentation led by the Swampscott Public Schools test administration team—Lytania Mackey Knowles, Director of Technology & Digital Learning, and Catie Porter Roberts, Digital Learning Specialist & Professional Development Coordinator.

  2. PearsonAccess Next (PAN) Passwords
    Passwords for PearsonAccess Next (PAN), the online test management system, expire every 180 days. School and district staff, particularly those who had access to PAN during last school year but have not yet used PAN this school year, should update their passwords. If a user's password expires, they will receive an email with a link to reset their password, or they can select the "Forgot Password" link on the PAN Sign In page.

  3. Reminder: MCAS BYOD Participation: Notify DESE by Friday, December 6
    Schools that have a "bring your own device" (BYOD) policy and would like to follow this practice for MCAS testing in spring 2020 will need to email by Friday, December 6, for instructions on preparing devices. A BYOD policy allows students to bring their own devices to school for use during regular instruction.

For High Schools

  1. November Retest Administration Updates and Reminders

    1. November Retest Manuals
      Schools should receive their shipments of November retest materials tomorrow, October 30. Paper copies of the Principal's Administration Manual Download PDF Document (PAM) and Test Administrator's Manual Download PDF Document will be included in the shipment, and are also available online.

      Page v of the PAM lists procedures that are new, procedures that are different from the grade 10 tests, and procedures that were introduced in spring 2019 and now apply to the fall/winter administrations.

    2. November Retest Resources
      Special guidelines for participation in the November ELA retest were sent to schools by email. Questions about participation guidelines or test security requirements may be directed to the Department (see the contact information in the header of this update). Contact the MCAS Service Center with questions about logistics.

      Other administration resources are now available, including this PowerPoint template Download PowerPoint File, which principals may want to use while developing the school's training session.

      Sample administration forms and materials are now available on a new page (instead of in the PAM). Many of these forms are in a format that can be easily completed online.

    3. New Procedure for Returning Materials
      Beginning with the November retests, schools will return test materials in a single return shipment (instead of separate scorable and nonscorable shipments). In addition, schools will return materials using the original shipping cartons. Additional cartons will not automatically be shipped to schools; schools should retain all original shipping cartons for use when returning materials.

  2. Reminders from the Previous Update

    1. Nonscorable Compositions for the ELA Retest
      High schools are encouraged to remind students of the importance of writing a composition that uses a work of literature to address the retest writing prompt. Compositions that do not address the writing prompt or are not based on a work of literature will be considered nonscorable. Educators may wish to view previously administered writing prompts, scoring guides, and sample student work at each legacy composition score point.

    2. John and Abigail Adams Scholarship Letters for Distribution
      High schools are responsible for distributing letters to students in the class of 2020 who have qualified to receive the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship. Printed letters will be delivered to districts tomorrow (and PDFs are now available in the MCAS Service Center). Additional steps were included in the previous update.

      The letter is important because students must provide a copy of it to their college/university each year, along with their completed FAFSA application. Without this letter, the college/university will not apply the tuition credit.

Other Important Dates

November Retest AdministrationOctober 30Schools receive November retest materials
October 30–November 4Schools complete the November retest PCPA, report packing discrepancies, and order additional materials
November 6–15 November retest administration
November 18
  • Make-up testing for students not able to participate in regularly scheduled sessions or earlier make-up sessions
  • Deadline for updating SR/PNP information, if necessary
  • Deadline to complete the PCPA
November 19Pre-scheduled UPS pickup/pickup deadline
Test Coordinator Training Sessions
Returning Test Coordinators:
  • November 19
  • November 20
  • December 13

New Test Coordinators:
  • December 5
See the back-to-school EL Assessment Update for details.

Additional Resources

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: October 29, 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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