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MCAS Performance Appeals

Frequently Asked Questions about MCAS Performance Appeals

September 2022

General Questions

Q1:  How does the adoption of the next-generation MCAS tests affect the MCAS appeals process?

A:  The Board amended regulations and established an interim passing standard for the classes of 2021 and 2022 in ELA and Mathematics. The interim standard will require a similar level of achievement to the current required standard on the legacy tests: 240 (Proficient), or 220 (Needs Improvement) and the fulfillment of the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP) in ELA and mathematics. More information can be found at the graduation requirements website.

Q2:  Who may initiate an MCAS Performance Appeal (cohort, portfolio, or transcript)?

A:  A parent, guardian, educator, or student age 18 or older may request that an appeal be filed, although the decision to submit an appeal on behalf of a student, and the ability to do so, rests with the student's home district superintendent (or designee), or the executive director of a charter school, approved private special education school, educational collaborative, or Special Education in Institutional Settings (SEIS) program. Superintendents or executive directors must file an appeal for a student with a disability if the parent/guardian (or student, aged 18 or older) requests it. Superintendents or executive directors may only initiate an appeal for a student with a disability upon receipt of written consent from the parent/guardian (or student, aged 18 or older).

Q3:  When can an appeal be filed?

A:  Cohort and transcript appeals must be received by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by the first Friday of each month, from October to June, in order to be reviewed that month. Portfolio appeals will be reviewed in November, May, and July, according to a published timetable.

Q4:  May an appeal be filed for a transfer student?

A:  Yes, but a student who transfers to a Massachusetts high school must participate in all MCAS tests/retests available to him or her before an appeal is filed. If the student transferred into the school after March of his or her senior year, and did not have the opportunity to participate in any MCAS tests or retests, a transcript appeal may be filed that includes information such as the student's transcript from the previous and current school, standardized test scores, college acceptance letters, teacher recommendations, and any other relevant academic information in the subject of the appeal. For information about MCAS requirements for transfer students in military families, refer to the Massachusetts graduation policy .

Q5:  May an appeal be filed for a student who participated in the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt)?

A:  A student who has participated in the MCAS-Alt at least twice for English language arts or mathematics and at least once for science and technology/engineering is eligible to have an appeal submitted in that subject. The format for such an appeal would typically be an MCAS Portfolio Appeal, although a cohort appeal will also be accepted.

Q6:  May an appeal be filed for a student who is no longer enrolled in high school and who has not yet earned a high school diploma?

A:  Yes. The superintendent or executive director is encouraged to file an appeal if a former student requests it.

Q7:  Can an appeal be filed in more than one subject on behalf of a student?

A:  Yes. A separate application must be filed for each subject.

Q8:  When is a portfolio appeal (i.e., a collection of work samples) required?

A:  A portfolio appeal should be submitted, rather than a cohort appeal, when there are fewer than six other students in the appellant's comparison group (cohort). With fewer than six students in the cohort, there will be insufficient data on which to make a decision to either grant or deny the appeal.

Q9:  If a student does not meet all of the eligibility requirements due to extenuating circumstances, may an appeal still be filed?

A:  Yes. If there are extenuating circumstances, such as hardship, disability, or extended illness, that affect a student's ability to meet the 95 percent attendance eligibility requirement, superintendents or executive directors may request a waiver of one or more of the eligibility requirements by submitting a written justification with the appeal application on a separate page signed by the appropriate school or district official.

Questions about Cohort Appeals

Q10:  How many courses must be listed on a cohort worksheet?

A:  For mathematics cohort appeals, algebra and geometry must be included on the cohort worksheet. For English language arts cohort appeals, relevant grade 10 and grade 11 courses must be included on the cohort worksheet. If any of the required courses are not included on the cohort worksheet, an explanation must be provided. For science and technology/engineering appeals, at least one course must be listed in the area of the appeal (biology, chemistry, introductory physics, or technology/engineering) that matches the MCAS high school science and technology/engineering test taken by the student. Course descriptions are required for all courses listed on the cohort worksheet. No determinations will be made on appeals that do not include course descriptions that match the titles provided on the cohort worksheets or that do not provide adequate information about the scope of the course.

Q11:  May "non-traditional" courses be added to the cohort worksheet?

A:  Yes. However, courses that include in the title terms such as Integrated, Resource, MCAS Remedial, ESL, or other non-traditional high school English language arts, mathematics, or science and technology/engineering courses, must be accompanied by comprehensive course descriptions that describe how the course addresses the grade 10 or high school standards in the relevant curriculum framework. No determination will be made on appeals that do not include course descriptions that match the titles on the cohort worksheets or that do not provide adequate information about the scope of the course.

Q12:  May districts choose to include in the cohort only some of the students who meet the cohort criteria?

A:  No. All students who meet the cohort criteria (i.e., students who took the same course or sequence of courses at the same time as the appellant and who took the MCAS test and received a scaled score between 220-228) must be included on the cohort worksheet.

If there are fewer than six other students who meet the 220-228 MCAS score criterion, districts may include students in the cohort with MCAS scores above 228 in order to identify the minimum number (i.e., six or more) of students needed for the cohort. However, in cases where it may be necessary to extend the MCAS score range above 228 in order to meet the six student minimum, districts should extend the score range only to the lowest score above 228 to attain a cohort of at least six students other than the appellant. A modified cohort worksheet must be used for this purpose, which may be requested from the Department .

Q13:  What if there are fewer than six students in a cohort?

A:  Cohort appeals that contain fewer than six students in the cohort will not be granted. A portfolio appeal may be submitted in those cases.

Q14:  May a cohort include students who took the same course(s) as the appellant, but in different school years?

A:  No. A cohort may include only those students in the school who took the same sequence of courses at the same time as the appellant. However, students in a different grade than the appellant may be included in the cohort if they took the same sequence of courses at the same time as the appellant.

Questions about Portfolio Appeals

Q15:  What happens if some, but not all, of the required work samples are submitted in the student's portfolio appeal?

A:  If some, but not all, work samples are submitted in the portfolio, the appeals finding will be No Determination, meaning that the portfolio was incomplete in the subject of the appeal. However, the portfolio may be resubmitted at a later date with additional work samples produced by the student. A completed Feedback Form will be provided with each returned portfolio that describes whether the submitted work samples were adequate and complete, and what additional work, if any, needs to be resubmitted in order for the appeal to be granted.

Q16:  What are the critical elements examined by the portfolio appeals panel?

A:  Panel members review work samples for:

  • completeness (i.e., whether all aspects of the required standard were addressed in the work, and all required standards were addressed)
  • depth and complexity (i.e., whether the work addresses the standards at the level of a high school student)
  • accuracy of the work completed by the student
  • independence of the student completing the work (i.e., whether and to what degree the student received assistance in the form of coaching, prompting, or cues from the teacher)

Q17:  How long does it usually take to complete a portfolio?

A:  Completing a portfolio may take several months of focused instruction to produce the samples that address all of the learning standards required for submission. For detailed information on portfolio appeals requirements, please refer to the guidelines.

Questions about Appeals Findings

Q18:  What are the possible findings for an MCAS Appeal?

A:  Appeals will either be deemed Granted, Denied, or No Determination (in cases when insufficient information is submitted to determine another finding).

Q19:  What is the finding for an appeal that is submitted with an incomplete application, incomplete academic performance information, or both?

A:  The Department will contact districts to obtain missing information. If required information cannot be obtained, the appeal will be returned with a finding of No Determination. The appeal may be resubmitted by the district if and when the required information becomes available.

Q20:  If an appeal is denied, or if the student is otherwise ineligible, and new information becomes available, may another appeal be filed?

A:  Yes. If an appeal was previously denied due to a student's academic performance but new academic evidence becomes available that may improve the chance of the appeal being granted (such as a final senior year course grade), then another appeal may be submitted. In order to be eligible for a subsequent appeal in cases where a science and technology/engineering appeal was denied, the student must take another high school MCAS science and technology/engineering test in either the same or a different discipline (biology, chemistry, introductory physics, or technology/engineering).

Q21:  If an appeal is granted, does the student still need to fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP)?

A:  Yes. Students who do not earn a scaled score of at least 240 on the grade 10 English language arts and/or mathematics tests are required to fulfill an EPP and meet all local graduation requirements before they will be awarded a Competency Determination. A student for whom an appeal is being filed is assumed to be in the process of fulfilling his or her EPP, and should continue to work toward meeting the requirements of the EPP even if an MCAS appeal is granted. Refer to EPP for additional information.

Last Updated: August 18, 2022

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