A message from the
Massachusetts Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education

September 22, 2021
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News from DESE Student Assessment Services

For All Schools

1. MCAS Retest Design Updates
Updated test designs for MCAS retests are now available, including the test designs for the next-generation tests. Please see more information here for ELA and here for mathematics
2. Math and STE Equation Editor
The Equation Editor (EE) tool that is embedded in MCAS computer-based next-generation tests in Mathematics, Introductory Physics, and grade 8 STE was recently updated with additional symbols and revised symbol descriptions. In addition to using the EE tools that are embedded in the Mathematics and STE practice tests, schools can use the EE guides and symbol key documents available on the MCAS Resource Center to help familiarize students with the updates.
3. Now Accepting Applications for MCAS Assessment Development Committees and the MCAS Bias and Sensitivity CommitteeDue Date September 30
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is seeking educators to serve as members of the MCAS Assessment Development Committees (ADCs) in the following content areas— English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics, Science, Civics—and the Bias and Sensitivity Committee (BSC). This is a rewarding professional development opportunity for educators who are interested in learning about large-scale, standards-based assessment. Committee members are directly involved in assisting the Department with the process of developing MCAS test items. Members receive an honorarium as well as professional development points.
More information about committee members’ roles and responsibilities and how to apply can be found here on the DESE website. DESE is looking to select from a diverse pool of candidates that have experience working with racially, ethnically, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse students. The due date to submit an application is Friday, September 30. Please help us spread the word by forwarding this information to your colleagues!
4. MCAS English Language Arts Released Essays Available
Schools and districts have access to released student essays from the spring 2021 next generation English Language Arts tests in grades 3–8 and 10 in PearsonAccess Next (PAN). The essays, in .PDF format by grade, are posted at the school level and can be accessed in PAN by users with the school or district Test Coordinator role, and by other users who have been assigned the Published Reports role. To access them, log on to and navigate to Reports>Published Reports. The ELA released items are available at

The released essays include the question prompt, idea development sub-score, conventions sub-score, and the student's typed response (for computer-based tests) or the student's handwritten response (for paper-based tests). As a reminder, in grades 3–8, one essay per grade was released, while in grade 10 both essays were released.
5. ACCESS for ELLs
a. 2021 ACCESS for ELLs Test Results
The 2021 ACCESS for ELLs test results were made available in WIDA AMS on August 5, and printed results were mailed to schools on September 8. Schools had an opportunity to correct any missing or incorrect student demographic information in WIDA AMS during post-reporting data validation (September 8–16) and will receive updated ACCESS results in WIDA AMS on September 30. Student results will be uploaded to the Department's Security Portal in DropBoxes and Edwin in October.

b. WIDA Screener for Kindergarten
The WIDA Screener for Kindergarten will be available in January 2022 for use in identifying incoming kindergarten students for English language services. The two approved screeners available for use with kindergarten students are the K W-APT and the K MODEL. If your district would like to be part of a field study to assist the Department in establishing proficiency cut scores for the WIDA Screener for Kindergarten, please email prior to September 30 for more information.

6. Reminders from the Previous Update
a. Parent/Guardian Reports Delivered to Districts and Available in PAN on Thursday, September 30
On September 30, Parent/Guardian Reports are scheduled to be delivered to district offices and made available PAN. As a reminder, districts will receive one paper copy of the Parent/Guardian Report; electronic versions will be available in PAN to MCAS test coordinators and users with the Published Reports role.

b. TestNav System Requirements and Updated App Available for 2021–22
Schools should review the TestNav system requirements and update operating systems as necessary for the 2021–2022 school year. Additionally, the latest annual TestNav release, app version 1.10, is available for download. Please see the previous update for further information. 

c. Grade-Level and Competency Portfolios
Students with significant disabilities who are performing at or near grade level but cannot demonstrate their knowledge and skills on standard MCAS tests, even with accommodations, may be eligible to submit a “grade-level” or “competency” portfolio. The updated Grade-Level and Competency Portfolio Manual provides guidelines on student participation, requirements for submission, and important dates.

d. MCAS Alternate Assessment Results
Portfolio Feedback Forms (PFFs) containing preliminary MCAS-Alt results are available in each school's MCAS 2021 Data DropBox in the Department’s Security Portal. The principal or test coordinator should download the PFFs and share them with the teacher who compiled the MCAS-Alt. For assistance logging in to the Security Portal, contact the district (or organization) Directory Administrator. MCAS-Alt portfolios will be returned to schools in October with a printed copy of the PFF. Please see the previous update for further information.
For High Schools

1. November 2021 Retest Testing Schedule
A detailed MCAS testing schedule for the November 2021 retest administration, including registration dates and administration deadlines, will be available later this week on the DESE website. Districts and schools should review the schedule and contact with any concerns. The schedule for winter/spring 2022 MCAS will be provided in a later update.
2. MCAS BYOD Participation: Notify DESE by Friday, October 15
A “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy allows students to use their own devices for instruction. Schools with students who are using their own devices for instruction, and would like to utilize these devices for the November next-generation retests, should email by Friday, October 15 for instructions on preparing devices.
3. Technology Support Prior to Computer-Based Testing
Technology coordinators are able to schedule one-on-one support from Pearson's support specialists (i.e., Field Services Engineering) prior to the November next-generation retest administration, between now and October 29. They may use this website to schedule "office hours" support for a 15-, 30-, or 60-minute phone meeting.

This is an opportunity for technology coordinators to receive support with the following:
  • Technology set-up and site readiness
  • Questions about TestNav
  • ProctorCache set-up
  • TestNav configurations in PearsonAccess Next
  • Infrastructure Trials (set-up as well as debriefing)
These "office hours" supplement the support provided by the MCAS Service Center (see contact information in the footer) and will only be available prior to test administration. During test administration, the MCAS Service Center will be available for real-time support.

Please share this information with your technology coordinators and staff.
4. Reminders from the Previous Update
a. Registration for the November Retests
Schools must complete the Student Registration/Personal Needs Profile (SR/PNP) process between now and October 1 to register students and order student test materials for the November retests. Two .CSV files have been placed in schools’ DropBoxes to assist with this process: one for students who have not yet earned the CD, and one for students who may test for scholarship purposes. Please see the September 1 Student Assessment Update and the updated Guide to the SR/PNP Process for further information. Additionally, a recording of the September 20th MCAS training on the Overview of the SR/PNP Process should be posted to the MCAS Resource Center by early next week. 

b. Process to Request a Waiver from the MCAS CBT Expectation for November Retests
The deadline to submit a CBT waiver request for the November retests was Monday, September 20. If you still need to submit a request, please email at this time, and refer to the previous update for further information. 

c. Participation Guidelines for the November Retests
Retests will be offered in November in both next-generation and legacy formats for ELA and Mathematics. As always, all schools are expected to offer the retests, and schools should inform families about the opportunity to participate. Please see the previous update for further information regarding who is eligible to participate. 

d. MCAS Performance Appeals
Students who have been unable to meet the CD requirements by passing the required high school tests and/or who are ineligible for the Board approved CD modification may be eligible for an MCAS performance appeal, an alternative pathway to meet the CD requirements. Please review the step-by-step guide for submitting appeals using the new online process and the previous update for further information.

Other Important Dates

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
Schedule a Call with Technology Support Specialists
available prior to test administration
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