A message from the
Massachusetts Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education

November 16, 2021
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News from DESE Student Assessment Services

For All Schools

1. Intent to Seek a Waiver to the One Percent Limit on Alternate Assessments
The Department intends to seek an extension of its waiver from the federal one percent limit on the number of students who can take alternate assessments (i.e., the MCAS-Alt). The waiver, if granted, will permit Massachusetts to gradually reduce the number of students participating in the MCAS-Alt while continuing to provide oversight, resources, and training to help Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams make informed assessment decisions for students with disabilities.
Massachusetts has made steady and substantial progress in reducing the number of students taking the MCAS-Alt, but reaching the one percent threshold will likely take several more years. In pursuit of this goal, DESE has posted a memo containing guidance and resources on this topic and will continue to promote awareness of the need for appropriate assessment participation by students with disabilities through statewide training and district oversight.
The Department welcomes the public’s comments regarding its intent to apply for this waiver. The Notice of Intent to Apply is posted here. Comments may be submitted via email to until Wednesday, December 1.
2. Reminders from the Previous Update
a. MCAS Test Administration Training Sessions for Spring 2022
The list of training sessions for the spring 2022 MCAS test administrations is now available on the Training Opportunities web page. Registration will be available approximately one month prior to each session. Recordings of the sessions will be available at the MCAS Resource Center approximately one week after the training date. Please see the previous update for further information.

b. ACCESS for ELLs WIDA Screener for Kindergarten: Field Study for Second-Semester Kindergarten and First-Semester Grade 1 Students
We are asking districts to volunteer to assist the Department if they plan to screen second-semester incoming kindergarten or first-semester incoming first-grade students between December 1 and February 11 using either the K W-APT or the K MODEL screeners. We are asking districts to "double screen" a small number of incoming students using their current screener plus the new WIDA Screener for Kindergarten. Details are available by email at
For High Schools

1. Returning PBT Materials from the November 2021 Retests
Schools are reminded to return next-generation and legacy retest materials in separate return shipments (i.e., one set of cartons for next-generation retests and another set for legacy). When packing materials, schools are reminded to use the original shipping cartons, and to fill any empty spaces at the tops of the cartons with crumpled paper (not plastic peanuts or shredded paper, please) to keep items from shifting during shipping; a small number of problems with return shipments occurred in spring 2021 because schools did not fill the return shipping cartons as instructed.
Schools received separate UPS Return Service labels in each set of materials (see the next-generation sample and the legacy one). An automatic pickup has been scheduled for schools on Tuesday, November 23, but schools are encouraged to return materials as soon as testing is completed. Earlier pickups can be scheduled at the MCAS Service Center (and note that schools will only need to go online once to schedule the shipment for both next-generation and legacy).
Full instructions for returning materials are provided in the Principal’s Administration Manuals for the next-generation retests (in Appendix B, beginning on page 77) and the legacy retests (in Part IV, beginning on page 40). Questions on packing return shipments and scheduling UPS pickup should be directed to the MCAS Service Center (see contact information in the footer of this update).
2. Reminders from the Previous Update
a. MCAS Interim CD Standard Extended to Class of 2025
As noted in the October 19 Student Assessment Update, the interim passing standard for the MCAS competency determination (CD) was recently extended through the graduating class of 2025 (current grade 9 students) in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering (STE). Note that students are assigned to their graduating class when they first enter grades 9–12 in a Massachusetts public school system. See the Department's MCAS State Regulations page for the definition of graduating class. 

As indicated in the tables below, certain scores in the Not Meeting Expectations achievement level are high enough to meet the interim CD standard in ELA and Mathematics. Additional information about graduation requirements is available at
English Language Arts Interim CD Standard. NextGen Scaled Score Range, NextGen Achievement Level, Legacy-equivalent Achievement Level and Scaled Score Range, CD status. 440 – 454, Not Meeting Expectations, Failing (200-218), Did not pass. 455 – 469, Not Meeting Expectations. 470 – 471, Partially Meeting Expectations, Needs Improvement (220-238), Passed, requires EPP. 472 – 499, Partially Meeting Expectations, 500, Meeting Expectations, Proficient (240-258), Passed. 501 – 529, Meeting Expectations, 530 – 560, Exceeding Expectations, Advanced (260-280), Passed.
Mathematics Interim CD Standard, NextGen Scaled Score Range, NextGen Achievement Level, Legacy-equivalent Achievement Level and Scaled Score Range, CD status. 440 – 468, Not Meeting Expectations, Failing (200-218), Did not pass. 469, Not Meeting Expectations, 470 – 485, Partially Meeting Expectations, Needs Improvement (220-238), Passed, requires EPP. 486 – 499, Partially Meeting Expectations, 500 – 503, Meeting Expectations, Proficient (240-258), Passed. 504 – 529, Meeting Expectations, 530 – 560, Exceeding Expectations, Advanced (260-280), Passed.

b. Next-Generation STE Tests Will Be Offered in American Sign Language and Spanish in June 2022
The next-generation Biology and Introductory Physics MCAS tests, in addition to the grade 10 Mathematics test, will be offered in both American Sign Language (ASL) and in a Spanish/English edition in June 2022. Please see the previous update for further information.

c. MCAS Performance Appeals — Important Dates
An MCAS Performance Appeal may be submitted for eligible high school students who have not yet earned their Competency Determination (CD). MCAS Cohort Appeals are due to the Department on the first Friday of each month (October through June). All appeals must be submitted using the online appeals application in the Security Portal. Please review the step-by-step guide for specific instructions. For more information, please visit the Performance Appeals page on the DESE website.

Other Important Dates

Table with Category, Date(s), Item. November Retest Administration. November 17, Next-Generation ELA Session 2, Legacy ELA Reading Comprehension Sessions 1 and 2. November 18, Legacy ELA Reading Comprehension Session 3. November 22, Last date for all make-up testing. Deadline for updating SR/PNP information and marking students’ tests complete, if necessary. Deadline to complete the PCPA (one PCPA for all November retests). November 23, (PBT Only) Pre-Scheduled UPS pickup (and deadline). February Biology Administration, December 6–17, Complete the pre-administration SR/PNP process. ACCESS for ELLs, December 2–February 18, WIDA AMS test setup.
Additional Resources
MCAS Service Center
for logistical support, including tech support for PearsonAccess Next and TestNav

Phone: 800-737-5103
Student Assessment Services
for policy questions, including student participation

Phone: 781-338-3625
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