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MCAS Performance Appeals

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.

Schools that intend to file MCAS Performance Appeals should review the updated Guide to the MCAS Performance Appeals Process that includes the specific eligibility requirements, passing criteria, decision timelines, and supplemental resources.

A district may file an appeal for a student who has not yet passed one or more of the required MCAS high school tests, if the student meets all eligibility requirements. The superintendent may initiate 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 (or designee) or executive director must file an appeal on behalf of a student with a disability if the parent (or student age 18 or older) requests it.

Although the vast majority of Massachusetts high school graduates have met the state's graduation standard by earning the required scores on the high school MCAS tests or retests, more than 11,000 students since 2003 have successfully earned a CD through the MCAS Performance Appeals process.

Types of Appeals

Cohort Appeals

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.

Transcript Appeals

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/Introductory Physics test before an appeal will be considered.

Portfolio Appeals

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.

Portfolio appeals are reviewed three times a year. Please review the timetable and important guidelines for filing portfolio appeals.

Valor Act — Facilitation of on-time Graduation for High School Transfer Students in Military Family

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).

Last Updated: March 25, 2024


New Online MCAS Performance Appeal Application using the Security Portal PowerPoint guide (Review the step-by-step guide for specific instructions).

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

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