This memo updates the important information and resources originally posted in March 2017 that will help districts make decisions about assessment of students with disabilities in light of the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which went into effect in the 2017-2018 school year. Thank you in advance for carefully reviewing the materials attached to this memo, as well as the information presented below.
ESSA states in part that
a State may provide for alternate assessments aligned with the challenging State academic standards and alternate academic achievement standards…for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, if the State…ensures that, for each subject, the total number of students assessed in such subject using the alternate assessments does not exceed one percent of the total number of all students in the State who are assessed in such subject.
ESSA also requires that parents/guardians of students with disabilities who take alternate assessments be clearly informed as part of the IEP process that
ESSA also requires that districts address any disproportionality of students in any subgroup taking the alternate assessment, per 34 CFR 200.6(c)(4)(iii)(B)
To assist districts in administering the MCAS-Alt appropriately and effectively to students with significant disabilities, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) has attached the following materials:
It is the Department's goal to provide as many students as possible with an opportunity to learn (and be assessed on) grade-level curriculum and to ensure that students with disabilities in high school are not deprived of the opportunity to earn a diploma.
While we affirm the authority of IEP teams to act without undue external influence to make final determinations about how (not whether) students with disabilities should be tested, it is reasonable to assume that some students who were designated for the MCAS-Alt in the past may be more suited to either
The Department is not asking IEP teams to "take students off the alternate assessment" in order to meet the one percent statewide requirement. Nonetheless, the one percent ESSA cap is an opportunity to revisit decisions for assigning students to the basic MCAS-Alt who may be able to access either the standard assessments with accommodations or submit a "grade-level" or "competency" portfolio.
Districts should examine the data provided as an attachment to this memo and anticipate the percentage of students that will be designated by IEP teams in their district to take the MCAS-Alt in the current school year. Note: "Grade-level" and "competency" portfolios do not count in the district's total of students who take alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards.
If a district anticipates that it will administer the MCAS-Alt in a given school year to more than one percent of students who will participate in MCAS, I am requesting that the district provide the following assurances:
If you wish to review a district's justification and statement of assurances, or have additional questions about the MCAS-Alt or about statewide assessment for students with disabilities, please contact Student Assessment by email or phone at 781-338-3625. Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.
Attachment 1: Guidance on Designating Students for the MCAS-Alt
Attachment 3: 2017 – 2022 MCAS-Alt Percent of Participants by District
Attachment 4: Sample Parent Notification Letter (English and translated versions)
Attachment 5: Training for District IEP Teams (PowerPoint)
Last Updated: November 22, 2022
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
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