Update as of September 2018
The state of Massachusetts is transitioning to a new statewide assessment called the next-generation MCAS which is a computer-based format for students in grades 3 – 8 as well as the 10th grade ELA and Math. The high school science and high school retests will continue to be paper based at this time. Therefore, this coming spring, all students in grades 3 – 8 and those taking the 10th grade ELA and Math will be participating in the computer-based test unless paper-based testing is specified in their IEP as an accommodation. We will have training and trial runs with the students beforehand, so they are well prepared. Below is an explanation from Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, regarding MCAS and graduation requirements:
Massachusetts high school students are required to pass MCAS tests in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science and technology/engineering in order to graduate from high school. For ELA and mathematics, the current state requirements for earning a high school diploma are:
Proficiency Plan, which outlines how the student will become proficient in that particular subject.
Members of the class of 2021 will fulfill the MCAS part of their graduation requirements in ELA and mathematics by taking the next-generation, computer-based version of the MCAS tests in those subjects in spring 2019. The tests will be similar in design to the tests that they took as eighth graders in spring 2017 if they were in a Massachusetts public school.
The next-generation grade 10 MCAS tests will have different achievement levels and scores than the previous versions of the grade 10 tests, but for the class of 2021, I am recommending to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that we require students to reach the score corresponding to 240 (or 220 plus the fulfillment of an Educational Proficiency Plan) on the ELA and mathematics tests in order to qualify for a high school diploma. In other words, I am recommending that the passing standard remain the same for your class as the state introduces the new assessments in those subjects. The standard could rise for future classes, but that is something the Board will discuss at a later date.
The transition to a next-generation science MCAS is happening on a different timetable, and the existing science MCAS and requirement will not change for the class of 2021. Students will still have to earn a score of at least 220 on one of the existing high school MCAS science and technology/engineering tests: biology, chemistry, introductory physics, or technology/engineering.
Students will continue to have retest opportunities on high school MCAS tests and will have the opportunity to qualify for scholarship programs through the high school MCAS tests.
All students are required to take the state MCAS tests for their grade level, regardless of their Learning Disability. When IEP’s are written, accommodations are agreed upon for state mandated MCAS testing. It is important that students understand their specific accommodations and realize that using these accommodations is not cheating. This is especially important for older students who are sometimes resistant to using their accommodations. For testing purposes, students are grouped according to their accommodations. We try to place students, as often as possible, with a staff member they know. All students have unlimited time to complete the test on the day the test is given; they cannot return to the test to finish on another day.
Some accommodations are considered standard and are available to all students with an IEP. Others are considered non-standard and have narrower guidelines. These guidelines require use of these accommodations within normal instruction as well as specific requirements for individual testing accommodations. The state has notified public schools that they are monitoring those accommodations considered to be “non-standard” more critically in order to limit their use. They are referring specifically to those that allow the reading of test materials to students in English/Language Arts, the use of scribes, and using calculators or number charts in all parts of the mathematics test.
There are several factors in the use of the special accommodation that allows the reading of test materials for the Reading Tests. Because the DESE believes this accommodation ends in a result that may not accurately reflect a student’s ability to meet grade level standards, it can only be used in rare cases when a student is considered to be unable to decode at all on their own. They must be virtual non-readers. Reading comprehension that is significantly below grade level is no longer deemed an adequate reason for use of this accommodation. The state currently provides specific testing packages for students with this special accommodation (to have the ELA test read to them), so some students may now be tested in small groups of 3-5 students instead of only 1:1, as in the past. This new guideline does not affect the opportunity for students to have all or part of the math and/or science tests read to students. This is a nonstandard accommodation.
Scribes are used to help students with significant motor issues, including students who may have endurance or fatigue issues. This may be someone, for example, whose writing is illegible and for whom typing on an Alphasmart or computer is too challenging. This may also include students that can only express themselves successfully when someone else is doing the writing for them, an exceptional accommodation.
The third non-standard accommodation under scrutiny is that which allows use of a calculator, multiplication chart, manipulatives, or other devices to assist in calculation on the non-calculator sessions of Mathematics tests for grades 5 and above. Only those students that cannot complete any calculations without such assistance are eligible for this accommodation. Once again, the state has recommended that this is used sparingly.
As a result, these accommodations may be a point of discussion in IEP meetings and it will be more difficult than in the past for students to receive these accommodations. In fact, the DESE has stated that we should be modifying IEPs to reflect these new guidelines. This may be done through an amendment to the IEP. It is up to the entire team to make the decision as to when to use these accommodations based upon these new guidelines. The DESE will be collecting data and sharing it with school systems as to the percentage of students using these accommodations. For more information on how this may affect your child, please discuss the issue with his/her Educational Team Leader at LPS.
MCAS Retests, the EPP and the Graduation Process
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE, formerly known as the DOE) requires graduating students to have passed:
One of the Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Technology/Engineering, Introduction to Physics) with a 220 or higher.
But the standard for graduation for English/Language Arts and Mathematics is Proficiency – 240. Students who pass with a score of 240 or above in these content areas have met their MCAS requirement.
Recognizing that many students may have difficulty reaching 240, but are able to pass the MCAS tests with a score of 220-238, the DESE put into place a process called the EPP in ELA and Math. The following information is designed to provide a brief outline of this process.
For those who score 220 - 238 (Needs Improvement Performance Level) in ELA and Math an EPP (Educational Proficiency Plan) is written. This plan lists courses to be taken until graduation. In addition, students must take an annual test to verify they are making progress towards the 240 standard. This plan is typically reviewed each year at the IEP meeting.
Students who scored 220-238 may choose to take the ELA MCAS retest in March to meet the 240 standard. If students should receive a lower score than previously earned, the higher score remains as the official MCAS score. Students who have passed at this level are not required to take the retest and reach 240. Meeting their EPP is all that is required.
All high school students are now required by LPS to take Mid-Terms and Finals each year until they graduate. These tests qualify as tests of progress for an EPP. As long as students pass these tests, they are eligible to receive a diploma.
No retest in Math is offered to students who have scored 220-238. They must rely on their EPP to graduate.
Those who score below 220 may continue taking MCAS. Retests are offered twice a year- November and March. Students may choose to take them each time they are offered or take them just once a year, at either time. Choosing to delay taking retests does not affect your ability to take them the next time retests are offered.
Science Requirements: Students need to pass with a score of 220 or above to meet state graduation requirements, not 240 or above (Proficient) as in ELA and Math. Those who have passed do not need an EPP in Science. Biology will be offered in February while Biology, Technology/Engineering, and Introduction to Physics will be offered in June.
Students who do not meet MCAS testing requirements but have met all other graduation requirements receive a Certificate of Completion. Students who choose to take a Certificate of Completion instead of a diploma may decide to discontinue taking MCAS tests. They must still take course mid-terms and finals.