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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update: November 26, 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. Testing Schedule and Administration Deadlines Now Available
    The testing schedule that was posted last spring has been updated to include test administration deadlines as well as test dates.

    Download Word Document
    2019–2020 Statewide Testing Schedule and Administration Deadlines, and Recommended Testing Times

    This schedule also includes the recently released recommended testing times for the spring 2020 MCAS tests. We are pleased to announce a reduction in expected ELA testing times based on the new test design. Schools should also note that the recommended testing times for STE in grades 5 and 8 are shorter than in 2019.

  2. Best Practices for MCAS Computer-Based Testing and Updated ProctorCache Recommendation
    Two updated documents are now available to assist schools in their preparations for the spring 2020 MCAS computer-based test administration.

    Best Practices for MCAS Computer-Based Testing provides guidance for technology set-up, steps for test coordinators and test administrators during administration, and information about troubleshooting common computer-based testing issues.

    In addition, there are new recommendations for precaching tests. ProctorCache Recommendation for Spring 2020 MCAS Computer-Based Testing details the steps that schools should take to determine whether they will need to use ProctorCache this spring. Questions about using ProctorCache should be directed to the MCAS Service Center (see contact information in the header of this update).

  3. Additional Option for Technology Support Prior to MCAS Computer-Based Testing
    Technology coordinators will be able to schedule one-on-one support from Pearson's support specialists (i.e., Field Services Engineering) prior to test administration, between December 2, 2019 and March 20, 2020. They may use this website to schedule "office hours" support for a 15-, 30-, or 60-minute phone meeting.

    This is an opportunity for technology coordinators to receive support with the following:

    • Technology set-up and site readiness
    • Questions about TestNav
    • ProctorCache set-up
    • TestNav configurations in PearsonAccess Next
    • Infrastructure Trials (set-up as well as debriefing)

    These "office hours" supplement the support provided by the MCAS Service Center (see contact information in the header) and will only be available prior to test administration. During test administration, the MCAS Service Center will be available for real-time support.

    Please share this information with your technology coordinators and staff.

  4. MCAS Training Sessions for 2020
    The full schedule for MCAS test administration and technology training sessions for 2020 is now available. The dates for the Overview of Infrastructure Trials sessions have been set as follows:

    • January 29 for returning staff
    • January 31 for new staff

  5. ACCESS for ELLs Online Test Set-Up
    The Department will order ACCESS test materials for your school based on the information provided in the October 2019 SIMS reports, and based on any accommodations and special test formats those students used for ACCESS testing last year. We will preload a student data file into the WIDA Assessment Management System (AMS) and your school's ACCESS Data 2020 DropBox in the DESE Security Portal on or around December 5 for students who were reported as ELs in your district last October.

    Between December 5, 2019 and February 7, 2020, test coordinators will be able to review the student data and perform the following tasks:

    • manage student records by reviewing the names and accommodations information for each student and revising as needed;
    • enter information for students who arrived after the October 2019 SIMS submission;
    • review names of students placed into test sessions; and
    • print test tickets.

    Additional information will be included in the next EL Assessment Update, scheduled for early December.

  6. Supporting Teachers Who Conduct the MCAS-Alt
    A new component, called the Skills Survey, has been added to the MCAS-Alt this year. The Skills Survey will require teachers to "pre-test" each student on a range of skills in the required subjects. In anticipation of the time it will take teachers to compile students' MCAS-Alt portfolios, the Department encourages principals to support teachers in this important work by:

    • encouraging an early start to the portfolio process (i.e., identifying students taking the MCAS-Alt, setting up student work folders, and identifying measurable outcomes and assessment activities);
    • encouraging collaboration among general education, special education, and related services staff, including paraprofessionals, to collect data and evidence for the portfolios;
    • encouraging teachers to attend a Department-sponsored winter portfolio review session;
    • providing flexible scheduling, planning time, and classroom coverage when possible to allow teachers to work on portfolios; and
    • reviewing portfolios periodically to ensure that portfolios are on schedule to be completed by the submission deadline of April 3.

    More information about the MCAS-Alt can be found in the November/December MCAS-Alt Newsletter Download Word Document, and in the Principal's Manual for the MCAS-Alt Download Word Document.

  7. New Fax Number for the MCAS Service Center
    The MCAS Service Center has a new fax number: 603-516-1121. Please make note in case there is a need to send a fax to the MCAS Service Center.

For High Schools

  1. Registration for the February Biology Test: Due December 13
    Schools must complete the Student Registration/Personal Needs Profile (SR/PNP) process to order student test materials for the February Biology test between December 2 and 13.

    Superintendents must ensure that educational collaboratives and approved private special education schools order materials via the SR/PNP process for their students in out-of-district placements.

    To assist schools in registering students for the February Biology test, later this week the Department will place a .CSV file in MCAS 2020 DropBoxes in the DESE Security Portal.

    A response is required from each high school by December 13. If no students will participate, email the MCAS Service Center with the school and district name and code. The MCAS Service Center will be calling high schools that do not complete the SR/PNP (or do not contact them before the deadline).

    The following resources are available for guidance in completing the SR/PNP:

    Questions about ordering test materials can be directed to the MCAS Service Center, and questions about policies or participation guidelines Download PDF Document can be directed to the Office of Student Assessment Services (see contact information in the header).

Other Important Dates

Test Coordinator Training Sessions
Returning Test Coordinators:
  • December 13

New Test Coordinators:
  • December 5
See the back-to-school EL Assessment Update for details.
February Biology Administration December 2SR/PNP file of students eligible for the February Biology test posted to DropBoxes in the Security Portal (and SR/PNP window opens)
December 13Deadline to import the SR/PNP for the February Biology test into PearsonAccess Next
Spring 2020 MCAS CBTDecember 6Deadline to request to participate in the MCAS Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program for MCAS testing by emailing; for schools that allow students to bring in their own devices for use during regular instruction

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: November 26, 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


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.