MCAS stands for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. “Assessment” is another word for “test.” MCAS refers to a series of tests that measure how well students have learned the standards set for Massachusetts students in core academic subject areas. Massachusetts learning standards are described for nine subjects areas (including the “English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes” for English language learners) in a series of books called Curriculum Frameworks. Schools must design their instruction to match the standards. Since MCAS tests are based directly on the learning standards, students are tested—or assessed—on what they are taught.
MCAS tests are administered in the following content areas:
• English Language Arts
• Science and Technology/Engineering
Each year, the MCAS testing schedule is posted online. It shows what students will be taking what MCAS tests and when they will be taking them. Click here to view the MCAS testing schedule.
Massachusetts students in public schools, including charter schools, who are in grades 3 through 8 must take MCAS tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics every year and once in high school, plus science in elementary, middle, and high school. High schools students in grades 11 and 12 who have not yet passed the grade 10 MCAS tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics will take retests. Students with disabilities and student who are English language learners must also participate in MCAS, although different rules may apply.
State and federal laws require that students with disabilities participate in statewide assessments like MCAS and that states provide accommodations as needed to ensure their participation. Students who cannot participate effectively, even with accommodations, must be offered an “alternate assessment.” In Massachusetts, the alternate assessment is called the MCAS-Alt. The alternate assessment usually includes a portfolio of work plus other important materials.