Overview of the MCAS Performance Appeals Process
The MCAS Performance Appeals process was established in 2002 to provide eligible high school students who have been unable to pass the required MCAS tests with an additional opportunity to demonstrate through their course work that they meet or exceed the state's Competency Determination (CD) standard in order to earn a diploma. To earn a CD, students must achieve a scaled score of at least 240 on the grade 10 MCAS English language arts (ELA) and mathematics tests, and earn a scaled score of at least 220 on a high school MCAS science and technology/engineering test in one of four subjects (biology, chemistry, introductory physics, or technology/ engineering). Students who receive a score between 220-238 on the grade 10 ELA and mathematics tests must successfully complete an Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP) developed for them by their school in order to earn a CD. Please note that the CD score requirement will transition to a new scale in the near future as high school students begin to take the Next-Generation MCAS tests. Please refer to MCAS High School Graduation Requirements for more information.
The MCAS appeals board consists of a panel of content experts who review the submitted applications and make recommendations to the Commissioner who makes the final decision whether to grant the appeal.
A district may file an appeal for a student who is having difficulty passing one or more of the required high school MCAS tests, if the student meets all eligibility requirements. Parents and students (if age 18 or over) may also request that the district file an appeal for the student. Please see the MCAS Performance Appeal regulations for more information.
Students with disabilities must also meet the CD requirement in order to earn and diploma. The superintendent (or designee) or executive director must file an appeal on behalf of an eligible student with a disability if the parent (or the student who is age 18 or older) requests it. The superintendent may initiate on his or her own an appeal for an eligible student with a disability with the consent of the parent (or the student who is age 18 or older). The superintendent must affirm that the student has met or is on track to meet local graduation requirements, and that the student's expected graduation is supported by the IEP Team (if any), as indicated on the IEP form.
Although the vast majority of Massachusetts high school graduates have met the state standard by earning the required scores on the high school MCAS tests or retests, more than 10,000 students since 2003 have successfully earned a CD through the MCAS Performance Appeals process.
Types of Appeals and Timelines for Decisions
A cohort appeal is based on a comparison of the grade point average (GPA) and MCAS scores of a student for whom the appeal is filed and those of at least six (6) other students in the school who were enrolled in the same courses at the same time as the student in the subject of the appeal.
Cohort appeals are reviewed monthly during the school year (October through June) and must be submitted by the first Friday of the month in which the appeal is to be reviewed. Decisions will be communicated to superintendents within 10 days of the review.
A transcript appeal is intended only for students who transfer to a publicly funded Massachusetts high school in mid-March or later of their senior year (i.e., after the MCAS retest in that subject has been administered). In these cases, the student’s transcript, GPA, standardized test scores (e.g., SAT, ACT, if available), college acceptance letters, and other relevant academic evidence are submitted to the Department to demonstrate that the student has the equivalent knowledge and skills to a student who has earned the MCAS score required to earn a CD.
Students who transfer to a publicly funded Massachusetts high school between September and March of their senior year must participate at least once in the MCAS retest and/or February Biology or June high school STE test before an appeal will be considered. Transcript appeals, like cohort appeals, are reviewed monthly during the school year (October through June) and must be submitted by the first Friday of the month in which the appeal is to be reviewed. Decisions are communicated to the superintendents within 10 days of the appeals review.
The portfolio appeal must include specific student work samples collected during one or more years in high school that attempt to demonstrate that the appellant meets a comparable level of performance to a student who has earned a score of Needs Improvement on a high school MCAS test in the subject of the appeal. Please see the guidelines for filing portfolio appeals for specific requirements in each content area. Follow the guidelines carefully for submitting portfolios. When evidence in the portfolio does not closely follow the guidelines, it will most likely be insufficient to show that the student has met the required standard. For a student in special education, the Department strongly encourages collaboration between general and special educators to develop the portfolio.
Portfolios appeals are reviewed three times a year (November, May, and July); results are provided five to six weeks after the review is complete. Please review the timetable and important guidelines for filing portfolio appeals.
If a high school student in an active military family moves from another state and enrolls in a Massachusetts high school in grade 11 or later, the district may, in lieu of having the student participate in MCAS retests, submit to the Department alternative evidence or information that demonstrates that the student has met the Massachusetts CD graduation standard in the required content areas—English language arts, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering (See details and specific eligibility requirements).
Appeals for high school students in military families are reviewed monthly during the school year (October through June) and must be submitted by the first Friday of the month in which the appeal is to be reviewed. Decisions will be communicated to superintendents within 10 days of the review.