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Amendments to the MCAS Performance Appeals Process for Science and Technology/Engineering

To:Superintendents, High School Principals, and Directors of Charter Schools
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Date:September 18, 2008

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At its regular meeting in Malden on September 10, 2008, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to adopt amendments to the MCAS Performance Appeals process (603 CMR 30.05) to make available a performance appeal in Science and Technology/Engineering. This action was necessitated by the requirement that students beginning with the class of 2010 must pass the high school MCAS Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) test, in addition to meeting the standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, as part of the state's graduation requirement.

Given the portrayal of the Board's vote in some local press coverage last week, I want to first assure you that the Board has not changed the graduation requirement in Science and Technology/Engineering. The current appeals process and the performance criteria that students must satisfy through a cohort or portfolio appeal to be granted an appeal also remain unchanged. The only changes these amendments make are to the eligibility requirements that students must meet in order to file an appeal in STE.

To help guide our thinking on this topic, I convened a working group of educators earlier this summer to review the current eligibility requirements for performance appeals in ELA and Mathematics, and then discuss how those requirements might be adapted to incorporate STE into the appeals process. Much of the working group's deliberations focused on the number of MCAS test attempts a student must complete in STE before becoming eligible for an appeal. After a thoughtful discussion, the working group recommended that students should be able to file an appeal in STE after taking one test and not passing. The working group's recommendations and the rationale for the "one test" eligibility requirement are contained in my memorandum to the Board, which is available online.

Students must also meet two additional eligibility requirements in order to file an MCAS performance appeal in STE: (1) they must meet the same 95 percent attendance requirement that applies to ELA and Mathematics; and (2) they must be enrolled in a science course during the year in which an appeal in STE is filed. Please note that for this year only, superintendents may file appeals for students in STE who failed the test but who are not currently enrolled in a science course, given that those students did not have the notice of the additional course-taking requirement prior to scheduling their courses this year.

The Board adopted the amendments for MCAS performance appeals in STE as emergency regulations so that they could take effect immediately and be available to eligible students early in the school year. We will invite public comment on the amendments through October 31 and then we will bring them back to the Board at the November meeting for a final vote. In addition, over the next few weeks, the Department will update the MCAS Performance Appeals documents online, including the application, cohort worksheet, and guidelines, to incorporate the new eligibility requirements for STE. As always, if you have any questions about the MCAS appeals process, please contact us at mcasappeals@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3333.



Last Updated: September 18, 2008
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