This document provides responses to questions that principals frequently ask during MCAS test administrations. It is intended to supplement the Principal's Administration Manual (PAM), which contains all the basic information needed for a smooth test administration. Answers to other questions can be found by searching for a keyword in the PDF version of the PAM.
Please contact the MCAS Service Center at 800-737-5103 for clarification on test administration procedures and with questions about MCAS materials. Contact the Department at 781-338-3625 with policy questions.
Q. Am I able to import my .CSV file into PearsonAccess Next (PAN) after fixing errors or making updates to accommodations?
A. Yes. After correcting any errors or making updates, you can re-upload (import) the file. If you change a student's testing mode to PBT during the extended pre-administration SR/PNP, you will need to place an additional order for paper-based materials by contacting the MCAS Service Center if your school does not have an overage of materials that will cover this student. You can update the SR/PNP via the file import, or this can be done manually on the student record in PAN. See further information in the Guide to the SR/PNP Process in Section III: Steps for Updating Student Information After the Initial Upload.
Q. How can test administrators find their Sessions in PearsonAccess Next?
A. There is no mechanism to assign PAN Sessions to a specific test administrator. Test administrators have access to see all PAN Sessions created in their organization. The Department recommends using a naming convention that makes it easy for test administrators to identify their own Session (e.g., the test administrator name or room number). Instructions are included in the Test Administrator's Manual for Computer-Based Testing to assist test administrators in locating their PAN Sessions.
Q. How can a student's status be changed to "Resumed" in PAN?
A. To resume a student's test (or multiple students' tests at one time), go to Testing > Students in Sessions. Be sure that the PAN Session is selected in the Session List. Check the box next to the Student Name(s) to be resumed. Select Resume Student Tests from the task menu. Then click Start. See Appendix B of the Test Administrator's Manual for Computer-Based Testing for more details.
Q. When should a test administrator lock a test session in PAN? What are the steps to do this?
A. Test sessions can be locked at the end of each day. The test administrator goes to Testing > Students in Sessions and ensures that the test session is selected in the Session List. The test administrator can then slide the toggle bar next to the lock icon from unlocked to locked. At the start of the next day's testing, this process should be repeated, sliding the toggle from locked to unlocked. The Test Administrator's Manual for Computer-Based Testing contains screen shots and instructions.
Q. When should a test administrator see a student's status as "Complete?" When should a student be "Marked Complete?"
A. The status for students who complete a session of a subject area test will appear in PAN as "Complete" if they clicked to "submit their final answers" at the end of that session. The status for students who have started the test but exit without submitting their final answers will appear as "Exited" (or "Resumed" if they have been resumed by a test administrator) — in these cases, if the student will not return to complete testing, the school or district test coordinator will need to mark a student's test complete. Once a test is "Complete" or "Marked Complete," a student cannot go back into the test. If a test was "Marked Complete" accidentally, the district test coordinator will be able to unsubmit a test. Instructions for marking tests complete can be found in the PAN user guide.
Q. When should a school stop a session in PAN?
A. A session in PAN can only be stopped once testing is completed and the status for students are all Complete or Marked Complete. Further instructions are provided in the PAN user guide.
(question added 4/12/2022)
Q. How do I add students to a PAN Session, or move a student from one PAN Session to another?
A. Refer to the PAN User Guide for step-by-step instructions on adding students to PAN Sessions and moving students between Sessions. A training module also exists for moving students between Sessions; the module and accompanying PowerPoint slides are available on the MCAS Resource Center.
(question added 4/12/2022)
Q. A student just transferred into my school and needs to participate in MCAS testing at my school — what steps should I take?
A. Schools that have a new student transfer into their school prior to testing will need to complete an Enrollment Transfer Work Request in PAN. Please follow the step-by-step procedures in the Enrollment Transfer Guide . Note that schools with students who transfer out of the school before testing to another school in Massachusetts should also follow the procedures in this guide.
(question added 4/12/2022)
Q. What should I do if I'm unable to sign in to PAN?
A. If you are unable to access your PAN user account, please contact your school or district test coordinator. Test coordinators should follow the instructions in the Guide to Managing User Accounts in order to ensure all staff involved in testing have PAN user accounts that are up to date.
(question added 4/12/2022)
Q. What steps should I take if a student starts a test with an incorrect accommodation?
A. If students were not assigned the correct accommodation prior to testing (only for Text-to-Speech and Human read-aloud session, ASL, Screen reader, Spanish-English, Compatible AT), schools should follow the guidance in the Resolving Incorrect Accommodations During Testing training module, which is posted on the Training page in the MCAS Resource Center.
The web extension can be changed when a student signs out of TestNav. A new test is therefore not needed when a school notices that the incorrect web extension was assigned after a student opens the test.
Q. Will there be a modified schedule like last year, with some students in grades 3–8 taking Session 1 and some students taking Session 2?
A. No, all students will take both sessions this year.
Q. The PAM states that only the principal may sign the Principal's Certification of Proper Test Administration (PCPA) and that the principal must sign their name on the PCPA exactly as the name is listed in School/District Profiles on the Department's website. How should a school sign the PCPA if the principal is out of school during testing (e.g., because of surgery or other emergency)?
A. The acting principal's signature for the PCPA should include "Interim" or "Co-principal."
Q. Does the Department have additional guidance on who may serve as a test administrator?
A. Schools should use the guidance in the PAM to assign test administrators. When necessary, substitute teachers may administer tests if they are employees of the district and meet the other qualifications stated in the PAM. Schools may also assign a paraprofessional to administer tests if all education professionals have been assigned to testing rooms and additional test administrators are needed. However, the Department strongly recommends additional training for paraprofessionals and supervision/monitoring of paraprofessionals who administer the test, meaning they must be observed closely by another test administrator, especially if they are providing accommodations.
Q. What staff coverage is appropriate for restroom breaks?
A. Students must be supervised at all times between the testing room and restroom. This can be done with monitors stationed in the hallways or monitors stationed at the restrooms with lines of sight to the testing rooms, or with staff who escort students to and from the restroom.
Q. What assistance can a test administrator provide to a student who asks for help with an onscreen tool?
A. It is important that students have an opportunity to learn about the use of the onscreen tools by viewing the student tutorial and taking a practice test before testing begins, so they will become familiar with the tool and how it works. During testing, test administrators should read aloud the section of the script reminding students that they may ask for help with the computer tools.
If a student is struggling to use any onscreen tool or perform an onscreen function, the test administrator may assist with the following activities:
With the exception of helping students sign in to TestNav (for which test administrators may type usernames and passwords if necessary), test administrators assisting students with the tasks above should not type or select any responses, but guide students to do so. Students should enter in all answers into TestNav themselves.
An example of prohibited assistance is telling a student to use the calculator or a specific tool on a particular question.
Q. When a student needs more time than is scheduled to complete a test session, should the student click on "Submit Final Answers"?
A. No. A student who needs more than the allotted time to complete a test should use the dropdown menu in the upper right corner of the screen to select "Sign out of TestNav." Then, on the pop-up message, click "Save and Return Later." The test administrator should then follow school protocol to allow the student who needs additional time to complete the test (e.g., in a different test setting). When the student signs back in to the test, he or she will need to use the same testing ticket as before to complete the session, once the test is resumed by the test administrator.
Q. May schools group students in the same room taking different subject tests, in different grades, or using different testing modes?
A. To achieve efficiencies, particularly for make-up testing, schools may group students taking different tests together if the following conditions are met: the script in the TAM is the same for these different tests and the materials needed for the students are the same (e.g., students will use a reference sheet for both tests). Different subject tests should be take place in separate rooms, because students will have separate tests, different materials, different TAM scripts, and different PAN administrations. Schools should not group together students doing computer-based testing and any students doing paper-based testing, including for make-up testing.
The Department discourages students in different grades testing together unless the scripts are the same. The TAM script is the same for the following tests: grades 3–8 ELA, grades 3 and 4 Math, grades 5 and 6 Math, grades 7 and 8 Math, grades 5 and 8 STE.
Q. May students use an 8 ½"x11" whiteboard during testing instead of scratch paper?
A. Yes. Schools may choose to provide whiteboards to students instead of scratch paper during testing; schools should also provide slim-point markers for students to use, so that their writing may not be easily read by a neighboring student. Whiteboards must be tracked (similar to scratch paper), and must be erased completely before students are excused at the end of each session.
Q. May students use tracing paper in addition to or instead of scratch paper during testing?
A. Schools may choose to provide tracing paper to students for use during testing, either in addition to or instead of scratch paper. This option may be particularly useful during Mathematics testing if schools are using tracing paper in regular instruction. The same requirements for other types of scratch paper must be implemented for tracing paper (tracking the scratch paper, and the limitation on the number of sheets a student may have).
Q. What if a student becomes ill during a test session or experiences a technology failure?
A. If a student becomes ill during testing or a student experiences a technology failure and cannot complete the session that day, the school may allow the student to complete the session on another day. The student should be instructed not to discuss the test, and the school should provide a closely monitored make-up session, during which the student may complete the test, but may not return to any questions that were previously answered.
Q. What are the procedures for students with diabetes who use a cell phone to control a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) or an insulin pump?
A. For students with diabetes who use a cell phone application to monitor blood glucose levels with a CGM, or to control an insulin pump, the Department recommends that the school test coordinator consult with the school nurse, and that the school nurse follow the student's Individual Health Care Plan and/or 504 plan/IEP in regard to remote monitoring of blood glucose levels. The student may retain the cell phone during testing in order to monitor blood glucose levels, or to control the pump, provided that the student is tested in a small group (no more than 10 students) or individually, so that the test administrator can closely monitor the student and ensure that the phone is not used for any other purpose.
Q. If a student has an IEP but the parents have not signed the most recent version, should the school administer the MCAS tests to the student using accommodations from the old IEP or from the newly amended one?
A. A new or amended IEP must be signed by the student's parent/guardian prior to testing in order to implement the IEP changes during testing. No part of an IEP may be implemented until it has been signed by a parent/guardian.
Q. What accommodations may be provided to a student with a recently occurring disabling injury that may or may not be temporary?
A. If the school has documentation or clear evidence of a disabling injury and the student needs classroom or MCAS test accommodations because of the disability, the school should develop a emergency 504 plan that states which accommodations the student will need, based on the nature of the disability. There is no need to contact the Department to request permission to create the 504 plan. However, schools must report in SIMS that the student has a 504 plan.
Q. What should a school do if a student refuses an accommodation during testing?
A. If a student is offered an accommodation based on their IEP or 504 plan and refuses it, the school must continue to make the accommodation available to the student for the remainder of testing. The school should document the refusal of the accommodation but should not have the student sign a "waiver" of any accommodation. Rather, the documentation provides a record for the school to keep on file that the accommodation was offered but not used by the student. At the next IEP or 504 meeting, the team should discuss whether or not the refused accommodation is still appropriate and necessary for the student.
Q. What to do when a student is assigned the incorrect test form in PAN?
A. Schools should review the "Resolving Incorrect Accommodations" module to review the following guidance:
Q. Are students who are no longer reported as EL, or those who have chosen not to receive English language support services, eligible to use a bilingual word-to-word dictionary?
A. Yes. Any student who is or was ever reported as EL may use a bilingual word-to-word dictionary during MCAS testing. Refer to the list of authorized bilingual word-to-word dictionaries.
Q. If a school has students who speak a language that does not have a bilingual word-to-word dictionary on the approved list, can the school submit a request to add a specific dictionary to the list?
A. Yes. Requests for additions and updates should be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Q. A student attended school here for a short time, returned to their native country for a year, and is now back the same school (and is reported as EL). Should the student be reported as first-year EL?
A. No. The student may be reported as EL but is no longer first-year EL, because the student was previously reported to SIMS in their first year of enrollment in a U.S. school. A student may only be considered "first-year EL" once.
Q. What is the difference between the Answer Eliminator and Line Reader tools?
A. The Answer Eliminator tool can only be used for multiple-choice questions; it marks a red "X" through an entire response option. The Line Reader tool is a large black rectangle with a one-line-high "window" in the middle through which the student can read one line at a time. The Line Reader can be moved around the screen by the student and allows the student to focus on one line at a time without visual distractions from other text on the screen.
Q. Can a student use headphones during testing as an accessibility feature for noise cancelling?
A. Yes. However, test administrators must ensure that the headphones are not connected (by Bluetooth or other means) to any source of music or sound. Students should not begin to use headphones until after the test administrator has read the testing instructions to the students being tested.
Q. What is the modified Competency Determination (CD)?
A. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved modified CD requirements due to the cancellation of testing in spring 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The modified CD is in place for the following graduating classes and subjects:
Under the modified CD, students in these classes may earn their CD through successful completion of a relevant Department-identified high school course. For more information, refer to the DESE website.
Q. What are the interim CD requirements?
A. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved interim CD requirements beginning with the class of 2021 (i.e., the first class to take the next-generation ELA and Mathematics tests in grade 10). The interim passing standard for ELA and Mathematics defines a level of achievement on the next-generation tests that is similar to the standard on the legacy tests. For more information, refer to the transition plan and the October 19, 2021 edition of the Student Assessment Update. Note that it is possible for a student to have a next-generation achievement level of Not Meeting Expectations but still meet the CD requirement in that subject.
Q. Can a student who participates in, but does not pass, the February Biology test participate in a June STE test as well?
A. Yes. If a student who participates in the February Biology test does not earn a CD in STE, he or she may participate in any of the four June high school STE tests, based on the participation requirements stated in the PAM. February Biology test results are expected to be posted early April (see the schedule in item 4 of the For High Schools section of the March 1 Student Assessment Update.
Q. Are students in grade 11 or 12 eligible to participate in the spring 2022 grade 10 ELA and Mathematics tests to meet Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP) requirements?
A. No. However, schools may offer students with Educational Proficiency Plans the optional MCAS/EPP Test for Mathematics between April 25 and May 6, 2022. There is no MCAS/EPP test for English Language Arts (ELA); however, schools will be able to use the March 2022 ELA MCAS retest as an assessment option for EPP purposes. For more information on EPPs, see the Department's website.
Q. Are private school students permitted to participate in MCAS?
A. Only private school students whose tuition is publicly funded are allowed to participate in MCAS. Other private school students are not allowed to take MCAS tests.
Only students educated with Massachusetts public funds are required by federal and state laws to participate in statewide testing. The state uses data from testing to help improve teaching and learning in Massachusetts schools. The state also uses the data to inform our accountability system, which targets resources and assistance where they are needed most.
Q. Are home-schooled students permitted to participate in MCAS?
A. No. Students in approved home education programs are not enrolled in public schools or educated with Massachusetts public funds. Consequently, they are neither required nor permitted to take MCAS tests.
(question added 4/12/2022)
Q. What if a student becomes ill during a test session and needs to leave?
A. If a student needs to leave in the middle of a testing session due to medical reasons: The school can stop testing, and the student can continue on with the rest of the session as a make-up on a separate day (see page 28 of the PAM).
The student should select "Sign Out of TestNav" when they exit TestNav. The student will then be in Exited status in PAN in test session 1. The school should lock session 1 once all students have completed testing today. The next morning, they should make sure that only session 2 is unlocked. The student will be able to log in and complete session 2.
When it is time for make-up testing, the school will need to unlock session 1 for the student, and resume the student test in PAN. The student should be instructed not to go back to any previously visited test questions and should be monitored closely.
Last Updated: April 12, 2022
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