This spring marks the start of the next-generation MCAS assessments in English language arts and math in grades 3-8. After considering for several years how to best update our already strong statewide assessment, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted in November 2015 to maintain a test unique to our Commonwealth that would draw some of its questions from the existing MCAS, some of its questions from the PARCC assessment developed by a consortium of states, and some questions created specifically for the next-generation MCAS. This spring is the debut of that new test.
The Board also voted to transition to computer-based testing. For the next-generation MCAS tests this spring, most students will take the computer-based version in grades 4 and 8. However, many school districts, including Melrose, have chosen the paper version of testing in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7 for this year; only grade 8 will be taking the computer-based version. We will transition to computer-based testing next year, spring 2018.
Many people ask us why we conduct statewide testing. These tests are required by both state and federal law, but more importantly:
- Test results help parents gauge whether their children are making academic progress.
- Test results help educators identify strengths and weaknesses in their curricula and instructional methods.
- A student’s participation in statewide testing helps provide context to other students in the same school, students in other schools within the district, and students in other districts. Failure to participate denies this perspective not only to the student who refuses to participate, but to other students and parents in the school, district, and statewide.
- Test results help the state target additional resources to underperforming schools.
- Test results help document the state’s progress to the Governor and the Legislature as the Department seeks to ensure adequate funding for all our schools.
MCAS was first instituted as part of the 1993 Education Reform Law. The programs and funding in that law have led to nearly a quarter-century of steady improvement in our K-12 schools. Today Massachusetts is number one in the nation in elementary and secondary education.
More information about the next-generation MCAS, including information for parents, is available online at http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/.