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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt)

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The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) is the Commonwealth's statewide assessment program developed in response to the Education Reform Act of 1993. MCAS, along with other components of education reform, is designed to strengthen public education in Massachusetts. MCAS is designed to measure a student's knowledge of key concepts and skills and to ensure that all students participate in a challenging curriculum based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

All students educated with Massachusetts public funds, including students with disabilities, must participate in MCAS using one of the following formats:

  • Routine (standard) MCAS testing

  • MCAS testing using one or more test accommodation(s)

  • MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt)

Students with disabilities take standard computer-based or paper-and-pencil MCAS tests, either with or without accommodation, at the grade specified for assessment in that subject.

A very small number of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, about 1% statewide, take the MCAS Alternate Assessment.

Each student's IEP team decides how, not whether the student will participate in MCAS in the coming year. Criteria used by IEP Teams to make these decisions can be found in the Department publication, Principal's Manual for MCAS-Alt which is updated annually.

The MCAS-Alt consists of data collected over most of the school year, based on in-class instruction. Assessment includes a skills survey, data chart, and student work samples. For more in-depth information see the Educator's Manual which is updated annually.

How to Get Help

Read frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the MCAS-Alt.

For further information on the MCAS Alternate Assessment, please contact:

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Student Assessment Services Unit
135 Santilli Highway,
Everett, MA 02149

Telephone: (781) 338-3625

Last Updated: April 20, 2024

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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