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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Test Design and Development


The MCAS test development process involves an extensive review and field testing before each test question (item) counts toward students' scores. It takes a total of two to three years for each question to be initially written, reviewed, and edited (by multiple educator committees, experts, and editorial staff), field tested by Massachusetts students, and then reviewed again with statistical information. Each step in the process is designed to ensure that test results are valid and reliable. The following graphic shows a simplified version of the development process for a single MCAS question.

Diagram of simplified review process of an MCAS question.

The order of the steps varies slightly across content areas but always includes each of the processes outlined in the above graphic. Additionally, ELA passages are also reviewed by both content and bias & sensitivity committees prior to questions being written.

Select: English Language Arts | Mathematics | Science and Tech/Engineering | History and Social Science

Assessment Development Committees (ADC)

ADCs (content committees) are made up of Massachusetts educators that assist the Department in the review of MCAS questions, scoring materials, and ELA passages. Each MCAS test has an ADC committee. The current committee members are listed on the Department's website: ELA, Mathematics, STE, and Civics. The role of ADC members is to review testing materials prior to field-testing and make suggestions and refinements to the test questions. This review of testing materials includes ensuring alignment to the standards, grade-level appropriateness, instructional worthiness, and content accuracy. After field-testing, ADC members review the materials with field-test performance data.

Bias and Sensitivity Committee (BSC)

The BSC is made of Massachusetts educators that assist the Department with the review of all MCAS questions and ELA passages. All questions and passages are reviewed before they are field tested and again with their field-test performance data. Members review questions and passages for bias and sensitivity concerns based on considerations including ability, age, culture, ethnicity, gender, geography, languages spoken, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Members identify and make recommendations to the Department for questions and passages with potential bias or sensitivity issues.

Applications for the 2024–2026 MCAS Assessment Development Committees and the MCAS Bias and Sensitivity Committee Are Now Being Accepted

DESE is seeking educators to serve as members of the MCAS Assessment Development Committees (ADCs) and MCAS Bias and Sensitivity Committee (BSC). These are rewarding professional development opportunities for those interested in learning about and contributing their expertise to statewide assessments.

Committee members are directly involved in assisting DESE with the process of developing and evaluating MCAS test questions and materials. Over 250 Massachusetts public school educators serve on the 20 committees. The BSC consists of approximately 25 educators and each ADC consists of approximately 12 educators. DESE is seeking members for the ADCs in the following content areas and grade levels:

  • Civics, Grade 8
  • English Language Arts (ELA), Grades 3–8 and 10
  • Mathematics, Grades 3–8 and 10
  • Science and Technology/Engineering (STE), Grades 5 and 8
  • High School Biology and Introductory Physics

Please see information about committee members' roles and responsibilities and how to apply. DESE is committed to equity and valuing the unique and diverse characteristics and experiences of all educators and students. We strongly encourage educators of color and educators with experience working with racially, ethnically, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse students to apply. The due date to apply is Friday, September 29, 2023. Please help us spread the word by forwarding this information to your colleagues.

Last Updated: August 29, 2023

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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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