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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

What Is the MCAS Alternate Assessment?


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 and 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 accommodations, 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 or 504 team decides how, not whether, the student will participate in MCAS in the coming year. Guidelines 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 materials collected annually by the teacher and student. Evidence may include a skills survey, work samples, instructional data, videotapes, and other supporting information and materials based on the student's performance in the subject being assessed.

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
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148
Telephone: (781) 338-3625

MCAS Service Center
(800) 737-5103

Last Updated: March 30, 2023

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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