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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment system, or commonly abbreviated as MCAS /ˈɛmkæs/, ", is the Commonwealth's statewide standards-based assessment program developed in 1993, in response to the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of the same year.[1] State and federal law mandates that all students who are enrolled in the tested grades and who are educated with Massachusetts public funds participate in MCAS testing.[2]

If necessary, students are given multiple opportunities to take the test to maximize the chance that said student will pass the exam.



Students are prepared for the exams throughout their academic careers through primary and secondary education. However, if an individual student needs help improving in a particular test, the first step in giving that student the extra help he or she needs is to identify specific weaknesses. Sometimes the student, teachers, or parents are aware of the weaknesses, sometimes they are not. To ascertain what the student knows as well as what he or she needs to learn, a diagnostic test may be administered.

Grade levelsEdit

Students take different tests according to their grade level. In addition to these tests, students may be required to take tryouts and pilot tests. The following list is current as of spring 2017. It is required for a student to pass the English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science and Technology/Engineering portions of the Grade 10 test in order to meet the Competency Determination requirement.[3]

Spring 2018 MCAS Tests by grade level
Grade Subject
3 Reading, Math
4 English Language Arts Reading Comprehension and Mathematics
5 English Language Arts Reading Comprehension, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering
6 English Language Arts Reading Comprehension, Mathematics
7 English Language Arts Reading Comprehension and Mathematics
8 English Language Arts Reading Comprehension, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering (see HS)
10 English Language Arts Reading Comprehension and Composition, Mathematics, Science and Technology/Engineering (see HS)
HS Biology, Chemistry, Introductory Physics, or Technology/Engineering

Note: Students in grades 9 or 10 take a Science and Technology/Engineering test in biology, chemistry, introductory physics, or technology/engineering.

Note: The History and Social Sciences test has been placed on hold due to budgetary concerns.

An Educational Proficiency Plan EPP must be developed for the subject matter area(s) in English Language Arts and mathematics in which students did not meet or exceed a scaled score of 240.[4]

10th graders who score at the Advanced performance level on one of the three high school state assessment tests in ELA, Mathematics, or STE (Biology, Chemistry, Introductory Physics, or Technology/Engineering); and score at the Proficient level or higher on the remaining two high school state assessment tests; and have combined scores from the three tests that place them in the top 25 percent of students in the graduating class in their district are eligible for the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship. Recipients receive a tuition waiver (not including fees) to attend state colleges and universities in Massachusetts. The waiver is in effect for 6 years.[5]

MCAS school and district level reports are released each fall on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.


The MCAS has been criticized for being too narrow in nature and for pressuring teachers into restricting the curriculum to material covered by the tests.[6][7] It has been met with opposition from mayor Scott W. Lang from New Bedford, who called it "completely unsustainable" and "impractical". He claimed that the MCAS was causing students to drop out of high school, and expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that public high school students must pass the MCAS to graduate.[8] Charles Gobron, superintendent of the Northborough school district, claimed that the standards set by the MCAS were "unfair", and that the minimum threshold for proficiency on the tests was being raised each year, "making it look like schools are doing worse than they really are."[9] The MCAS has also faced opposition from public school teachers. Some, such as Joan Bonsignore of Easthampton High School, claim that the tests do not accurately demonstrate the skills of students, and that they cause anxiety among the students.[10]

The University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, a research arm of the University President's Office, wrote in 2001 that the MCAS do not measure school or district performance because 84% of the variation in the scores across schools and districts is due to socioeconomic factors. In other words, as the Donahue Institute reported, "One of the consistent findings of this research is that demography explains most of the variation in test scores from district to district. Results from this year's research are similar to results from last year's work: about 84% of the variation in test results (scores for all of the test-taking students for the nine MCAS tests combined) is explained by demography. That is why Weston and Wayland have high MCAS scores and why Holyoke and Brockton have low MCAS scores. Thus, though demography is not destiny, it sets a strong tendency." In the end, wrote the Donahue Report, the MCAS scores tell more about a district's real estate values than the quality of its schools."[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System: Overview". Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. 7 September 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  2. ^ "Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System: Participation Requirements for Students". Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  3. ^ "Graduation Requirements - Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System". Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  4. ^ "College and Career Readiness: Educational Proficiency Plans". Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  5. ^ "Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System: John and Abigail Adams Scholarship". Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  6. ^ Sacchetti, Maria (5 June 2007). "MCAS critics push for change". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  7. ^ Potier, Beth (18 October 2001). "MCAS put to the test at KSG". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  8. ^ Cohen, Joe (15 June 2008). "Mayor continues criticism of MCAS testing with magazine article". The Standard-Times. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  9. ^ Petrishen, Brad (6 October 2011). "Northborough superintendent says MCAS standards unfair and too high". The MetroWest Daily News. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  10. ^ Everett, Rebecca (9 March 2011). "As MCAS nears for students, teachers reflect on 12 years of testing". Daily Hampshire Gazette. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  11. ^ Gaudet, Robert D. Effective School Districts in Massachusetts: A Study of Student Performance on the 1999 MCAS Assessments. The Second Annual Report. Sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, March, 2000. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-02-17. Retrieved 2013-06-11.

External linksEdit