Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Scoring Student Answers to Constructed-Response/Open-Response Questions and Essays

What Is Scored?

Over 6 million total student responses

  • to constructed-response/open-response questions in English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering (STE)
  • to ELA essays (grades 3–8 and 10)

How Is Scoring Done?

Use of Scoring Rubrics

  • Constructed-response and open-response questions in Mathematics and STE are scored using a rubric, scoring notes, and student responses. These scoring materials indicate what knowledge and skills students must demonstrate to earn each score point.
  • ELA constructed-response (short-response) questions for grades 3 and 4 are scored using a rubric, scoring notes, and student responses. Constructed-response items are worth up to 3 score points. The three-point constructed-response question assesses reading comprehension by requiring students to construct an answer in a shorter format.
  • ELA essays in grades 3–8 and 10 are scored using a rubric, scoring notes, and student responses. The essays are evaluated using two criteria:
    • Idea Development, based on a 1–4 score-point scale for grades 3–5 and a 1–5 score-point scale for grades 6–8 and 10
    • Standard English Conventions, based on a 1–3 score-point scale for grades 3–8 and 10

Scorer Training

Scorer training sessions require that scorers

  • answer each test question to be scored;
  • review the content covered by the question and discuss its scoring rubric and benchmarked student responses;
  • score a set of responses (training pack);
  • discuss training pack responses and scores assigned to them; and
  • score another set of responses (qualifying pack).

A scorer has two opportunities to accurately score a set of qualifying responses. A scorer who is unable to consistently and accurately score the responses will not be allowed to score that item.

Scoring High School Constructed-Response/Open-Response Questions and Essays

All high school Mathematics and STE constructed-response/open-response questions and ELA essays are scored twice by two separate scorers.

Who Does the Scoring?

Professional scorers are hired by the contractor to score all essays and constructed-response/open-response questions. The contractor actively seeks a diverse scoring pool and typically employs scorers with a broad range of backgrounds, including teachers, business professionals, graduate school students, and retired educators.

All scorers will meet, at a minimum, the following requirements:

  • For grades 3–8, all scorers will have at least 48 college credits, with at least two classes related to the content area being scored.
  • For high school, all scorers must have a 4-year college degree and a degree related to the content area being scored.

Last Updated: July 29, 2021

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.