Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System
1. What is tested on MCAS?
The MCAS tests are based on the learning standards in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. MCAS tests are administered in the following content areas:
- English Language Arts
- Science and Technology/Engineering
- History and Social Science
2. What types of questions appear on MCAS tests, and how are student responses scored?
Four types of questions are used on MCAS tests:
Multiple-choice questions are included on all MCAS tests except the ELA Composition and require students to select the correct answer from a list of four options.
Responses to multiple-choice questions are machine scored.
Short-answer questions are included only on Mathematics tests and require students to generate a brief response, usually a numerical solution or a brief statement.
Responses to short-answer questions are scored on a scale of 0-1 points by one scorer at grades 3-8 and by two scorers independently at grade 10.
Open-response questions are included on all MCAS tests except the ELA Composition and require students to generate, rather than recognize, a response. Students create a one- or two-paragraph response in writing or in the form of a narrative or a chart, table, diagram, illustration, or graph, as appropriate. Students can respond correctly using a variety of strategies and approaches.
Responses to open-response questions are scored using a scoring guide, or rubric, for each question. The scoring guides indicate what knowledge and skills students must demonstrate to earn 1, 2, 3, or 4 score points. Students earn 1 or 2 points for grade 3 Mathematics open-response questions.
Answers to open-response questions are not scored for spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Responses are scored by one scorer at grades 3-8. Grade 10 ELA and Mathematics tests and high school Science and Technology/Engineering tests are scored by two scorers independently.
Writing prompts are included only on ELA Composition tests and require students to respond by creating a written composition.
The student compositions are scored independently by two scorers for
- Topic development, based on a six-score point scale, with students receiving from 2 to 12 points (the sum of scores from each of the two scorers)
- Standard English conventions, based on a four-point scale, with students receiving from 2 to 8 points (the sum of the scores from each of the two scorers).
- Student compositions that do not address the prompt will be deemed non-scorable (NS), earning them a 0 out of 20 possible points.
3. How are test results reported?
Results are reported for individual students, schools, and districts according to four performance levels defined by the Board of Education:
- Advanced (grades 4-10)/Above Proficient (grade 3)
- Proficient (grades 3-10)
- Needs Improvement (grades 3-10)
- Warning (grades 3-8)/Failing (grades 9 and 10)
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