A message from the
Massachusetts Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education

January 10, 2022
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Special Edition for Middle Schools

News from DESE Student Assessment Services

For Middle Schools

Invitation to Participate in Voluntary Grade 8 Civics Pilot Assessment

We would like to invite grade 8 students in your school to participate in a voluntary pilot in spring 2022 for a new History and Social Science assessment in grade 8 civics.

The Department is developing a new grade 8 civics assessment based on the 2018 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework, incorporating performance-based tasks and computer-based test items. The purpose of the pilot is to evaluate new performance tasks and new types of computer-based questions; no student, school, or district results will be generated. The Department plans to release a set of performance tasks and computer-based questions for instructional purposes in the fall of 2022.
The grade 8 civics assessment is made up of three parts. Each part is expected to take approximately 45 minutes to complete. The three parts include:
  • a local-level classroom performance task completed during class and scored by the classroom teacher
  • a computer-based state-level performance task scored by the Department
  • a computer-based end-of-course (EOC) test scored by the Department
The local-level classroom performance task is designed to help prepare students for the state-level performance task. These two performance tasks, which together form a task set, are meant to be administered within about one week of each other and will cover the same civics topic. For example, a local-level task may ask students to work in groups to analyze sources about the development of the U.S. government. Following the completion of the local-level task, students will independently take the associated state-level performance task related to the same topic. The state-level task will consist of constructed responses, and may also include multiple-choice, multiple-select, or technology-enhanced items. Schools will be able to select one task set to administer based on the topics they have already covered in class.
The EOC test covers the breadth of the civics standards and is made up of multiple-choice, multiple-select, and technology-enhanced questions. Many of these questions will be based on a text source or graphic for students to analyze and evaluate. Practice performance assessment tasks and EOC test questions from the civics assessment pilot given in 2021 are posted at

For the pilot, we strongly recommend that schools participate in all three parts of the assessment. If necessary, however, a school may participate in only the performance task set portion or the EOC portion of the assessment. Text-to-speech will be provided on the state-level performance task and the EOC test, but paper-based accommodations will not be available for this pilot.
The administration window for the performance task sets will be March 14–April 29, 2022, and the administration window for the end-of-course test will be May 23–June 10, 2022. Attached, you will find the detailed schedule for the pilot and administration tasks.
As described in recent editions of the Student Assessment Update, Department staff will host a webinar tomorrow, January 11 at 9:30–10:30 a.m. to provide a general overview for schools that are considering participating in this pilot opportunity. Schools can register for the training online until 3:00 p.m. today.
If your school is interested in participating, please complete the brief online form by Friday, January 28. The Department will follow up with interested schools regarding next steps, including instructions on how to register students. Interested schools should also inform their superintendents.
If you have any questions, please contact us at 781-338-3625 or
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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