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 "legacy" grade 10 MCAS English language arts (ELA) and mathematics tests (or a score of 472 on the "next-generation" ELA test and a score of 486 on the "next-generation" mathematics test); and earn a scaled score of at least 220 on a high school "legacy" 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 refer to the Graduation Requirements web page for more information.
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. Please note for ELA and mathematics, a student in the class of 2021 and 2022 may be waived from the requirement to take the test a minimum of three times by taking the test twice and including a letter from the superintendent requesting that this requirement be waived due to the extended school closures last spring and cancellation of the spring 2020 MCAS. Parents and students (if age 18 or over) may also request that the district file an appeal on behalf of the student. 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. The superintendent must affirm that the student has met, or is on track to meet, local graduation requirements and that the student's graduation is supported by the IEP Team and is indicated on the IEP form.
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.
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.
Last Updated: October 16, 2020
New Online MCAS Performance Appeal Application using the Security Portal PowerPoint guide (Review the step-by-step guide for specific instructions).
If you have questions about the MCAS appeals process that are not answered in these pages or by school personnel, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-338-3333.
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.