Monday, December 19, 2016

Seeking Public Feedback on Next-Generation MCAS Achievement Levels:

ESE convened a 14-person team this fall to develop and recommend performance level names for the upcoming Next Generation MCAS assessment.  The committee is now seeking public feedback on those levels, via an online survey, which include:

Achievement Levels and Descriptors

Draft Next-Generation MCAS Achievement Levels and Descriptors, as proposed by the Standard Setting Policy Committee

Exceeding Expectations
Students performing at this level on this test exceed grade-level expectations for knowledge, skills, and understanding; and, are academically well prepared to succeed at the next grade level.
Meeting Expectations
Students performing at this level on this test meet grade-level expectations for knowledge, skills, and understanding; and, are academically prepared to succeed at the next grade level.
Partially Meeting Expectations
Students performing at this level on this test partially meet grade-level expectations for knowledge, skills, and understanding. These students may need coordinated assistance and/or additional instruction to succeed at the next grade level.
Not Yet Meeting Expectations
Students performing at this level on this test did not meet grade-level expectations for knowledge, skills, or understanding. These students need substantial coordinated intervention and/or additional instruction to succeed at the next grade level.

Legacy MCAS Achievement Levels and Descriptors

Students at this level demonstrate a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of challenging subject matter and provide sophisticated solutions to complex problems.
Students at this level demonstrate a solid understanding of challenging subject matter and solve a wide variety of problems.
Needs Improvement
Students at this level demonstrate a partial understanding of subject matter and solve some simple problems.
Warning (Failing at high school)
Students at this level demonstrate a minimal understanding of subject matter and do not solve simple problems.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New ACCESS for ELLs Results

ACCESS for ELLs Results, Standard Setting, and 2016-2017 Revised Reclassification Criteria:
Massachusetts administered the new ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 English proficiency assessment for the first time in January and February using a combination of computer- and paper-based forms for students in grades 1-12. Results were reported in May.

During the summer, WIDA, supported by their partner, the Center for Applied Linguistics, conducted a study and set new limits defining the lower and upper ends of each proficiency level on ACCESS 2.0. This online message discusses the results of the study and how it will affect how students are classified. The ELL Assessment Update sent on November 28 to English language learner directors also provided details on the revised reclassification criteria for 2016-2017.

For more information about the placement and reclassification of English learners, contact the Office of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement at or 781 338-3584. For more information regarding ACCESS results or the proficiency levels on the test, please contact Student Assessment Services at either or 781-338-3625.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Next Generation Testing Update

The released testing schedule for High School MCAS, as well as the grade 3-8 ELA and math Next Generation MCAS is now available.

MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has also released its transition plan for the high school MCAS assessments, as well as the grade 5 and 8 science MCAS based on the revised 2016 standards.  These resources can be found here.

Monday, December 5, 2016

PARCC Releases 2015-16 Test Items

PARCC Consortium test items from 2015-16, as well as previous years, are now available on the Partnership Resource Center.  Additional resources, such as test scoring rubrics, student writing samples and learning standard guidelines are also available on this site.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

STE Question Tryout for Grades 5 & 8

Voluntary Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) Question Tryout for Grades 5 and 8:
As part of the STE transition plan to assess the new standards adopted in January 2016 and to transition to computer-based assessment, ESE is recruiting schools to participate in a voluntary test administration to try out new computer-based test questions for grades 5 and 8. Results will only be used to evaluate the questions administered and will not be used to generate student, school, or district results. The tryout administration window will be June 5–16, 2017, and the test session will take approximately 45 minutes. This tryout does not take the place of the regular MCAS administration. A survey to collect information from interested schools (i.e., number of students participating at grades 5 and/or 8) was emailed to elementary and middle school principals on Monday, November 14, 2016. 

Schools interested in participating should inform their superintendents and complete the brief online form by 5 p.m. November 30. Anyone with questions can contact the Office of Student Assessment Services at 781-338-3625 or

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Discipline Data Released

On November 17, ESE released suspension data for the 2015-16 school year. It was the second year of data since a state law and regulations tookeffect on July 1, 2014 that aimed at reducing the amount of learning time students miss due to suspensions or expulsions. More student discipline information and resources are available online, including information about the Rethinking Discipline Professional Learning Network.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Spring 2017 Next Generation MCAS Test Design Released

The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently released the design of the 2017 Next Generation MCAS for ELA and math, grades 3-8.  Tests will continue to have open response and multiple choice questions, as well as new question types, including: technology enhanced, multiple select, and text-based and narrative essays.

For more information on the math Next Generation MCAS design and test content:

For more information on the ELA Next Generation MCAS design and test content:

Monday, November 7, 2016

Next Generation Grade 10 MCAS Set for 2019

The class of 2021 will be the first students to take the Next Generation Grade 10 MCAS assessment, completing it in the Spring of 2019.  These current 8th grade students will participate this spring in the Next Generation 8th grade computer-based ELA and math assessment, gaining exposure to the next test.

Students in the class of 2020 and younger will continue to take the current MCAS assessments as part of their competency determination.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pre-Approved MCAS Materials for Students with Disabilities Now Available

Pre-approved graphic organizers, checklists and reference sheets are now available for students with disabilities, based on the accommodations identified in their IEP and 504 plans. A list of these materials can be found on the department's MCAS website.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Grade 10 MCAS 2017 Test Design Now Available

The Department's Student Assessment website is continually updated with newly released information regarding MCAS and other student assessments.  Grade 10 MCAS test design information is currently available for ELA, and math.  Grade 5, 8 and 10 MCAS science information is also available.  Blueprints for grade 3-8 Next Generation MCAS assessments will be forthcoming.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Public Forums on Changes in Light of the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act

The Department will be updating its accountability system in light of ESSA revisions.  As ESE starts to draft the Commonwealth's ESSA plan, ESE will hold five public forums to gather feedback. Register here for one of the following events, all of which will run from 6-7:30 p.m.

·         Monday, November 14, second floor of the Bolling Building, 2300 Washington St., Roxbury
·         Monday, November 21, Oak Middle School, 45 Oak St., Shrewsbury
·         Tuesday, November 29, Brockton High School, 470 Forest Ave., Brockton
·         Thursday, December 1, Holyoke High School, 500 Beech St., Holyoke
·         Tuesday, December 6, Collins Middle School, 29 Highland Ave., Salem

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How are graduation cohort rates calculated?

MA ESE calculates graduation cohorts two ways, using both a 4 year and 5 year cohort graduation rate.  Students are assigned to a cohort based on when they enter a MA school system in grades 9-12.  Once a student is assigned a cohort, their cohort never changes, even if that student transfers schools or is retained.  Click here to find more information about graduation rate data:

To calculate the 4-year graduation rate, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) tracks a cohort of students from 9th grade through high school and then divides the number of students who graduate within four years by the total number in the cohort. In other words the rate provides the percentage of the cohort that graduates in 4 years or less. For example, the formula for the 2011 cohort is:
# of students in cohort who graduate in 4 years or less
a black line
[# of 1st time entering 9th graders in 2007–08] − transfers out + transfers in

ESE understands that many students need longer than fours years to graduate from high school, and that it is important to recognize the accomplishment regardless of the time it takes. Therefore, ESE will publish a 5-year graduation rate when data become available and additional rates as policy and program needs may warrant.
The 5-year rate for the 2010 cohort will be calculated as:
# of students in cohort who graduate in 5 years or less
a black line
[# of 1st time entering 9th graders in 2006–07] − transfers out + transfers in

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Data Available in the MA DESE Security Portal

MA DESE has posted 2016 annual dropout and cohort graduation rate data in the Security Portal for district and school review.  Districts can make corrections via the October SIMS submission by October 27, 2016.  Final dropout and graduation rates will be made public in January 2017, following the verification of the October 2016 SIMS collection.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

MA DESE Student Assessment Update

2016-17 state testing window can be found here:

Become familiar with changes to the test design for the grades 3–8 ELA and Mathematics tests and the transition plan for the Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) tests, and share information with your staff.
  • ELA: Students will be assessed in writing in response to text at all grade levels, instead of participating in a separate composition test at certain grades (note, however, that the grade 10 ELA Composition will remain). More information, including the new test designs, will be posted later this fall.
  • Mathematics: Test design changes are being finalized, and the new test designs will be posted later this fall.
Information for planning for computer-based testing for the Next Generation MCAS can be found here:

Accommodations and accessibility information for students with disabilities on the Next Generation MCAS can be found here, as well as dates for upcoming October workshops on testing accommodations:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Capturing Student Data In the Moment

When asked what the biggest barrier to collecting and analyzing student assessment data, particularly that formative assessment data that should be occurring daily in the classroom, teachers frequently respond with "time."  How does one stop what they are doing to capture all that interaction and student work?  How do I find time to not only grade but analyze that data to identify student misconceptions?

Technology plays a big role in classrooms as an instructional support or means to enhance the curriculum.  As PARCC and MCAS move to online testing, it is even the mode in which students complete their summative assessments.  Below are a few ways that technology can play just as big a role in formative assessments:

  • Observations: move your observational or anecdotal data from notetaking to short videos.  Using a tablet or smartphone, capture students' presentations, turn and talks, class discussions, etc. via video.
  • Student work: Want to capture that model, poster, or other cumbersome display of student learning?  Take a photo with the smartphone or tablet and save it to a digital student portfolio or as a demonstration of student mastery toward a specific content standard.
  • Student surveys: Conducting a beginning of the year student interest inventory?  Or a survey of students' learning styles?  Google Forms or an online survey platform (most have a free, limited trial) collect and analyze data for you.
  • Formative assessments of academic content: And finally, if looking to assess students on a particular skill or content standard, a number of free websites are available.  Whether you are looking for a game-like platform to quiz students (Kahoot), ask students multiple choice or limited response questions (Plickers), or one that allows for a range of question types (Socrative), or one in which you could provide visible feedback embedded in student work (Google docs) there are a range of free applications available.  With the exception of Google docs, these tools, and others similar to them, allow you to customize questions, collect responses and immediately review data visuals on student responses. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Boston Future Ready Summit- November 14-15

Save the Date: Boston Future Ready Summit November 14-15:
The Boston Future Ready Summit, an opportunity for district teams to align digital learning strategies with student learning goals, will be held November 14-15 at the Education Development Center, 43 Foundry Ave., Waltham. District teams committed to fostering personal learning using effective digital strategies are invited to attend! The keynote speaker will be Eric Sheninger, senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education.

The summit is free and open to any district team that has not yet participated in a Future Ready Summit. Before registering, interested people should review the summit expectations and objectives

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Massachusetts Plan for Equitable Access to Educators

MA DESE has developed a state-wide plan for students to gain equitable access to educators.  The plan focuses on three main initiatives tied to: 1) Educator Preparation; 2) Educator Effectiveness; and 3) Inclusive Practices.

To support this plan, the following data resources are available:

  • Edwin Report SE322: Equitable Access to Educators
  • Edwin Report EV901: examines trends of educator evaluation ratings by provider
  • Educator Preparation Program Provider data
  • And calibration videos and resources.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Kindergarten Readiness Gap Narrowing

A recent study published in AERA by Sean Reardon of Stanford University, finds a surprising turn in the kindergarten readiness gap.  While academic achievement gaps between White-Black and White-Hispanic students decreased in the 1970s and 1980s, there has remained a persistent plateau in achievement gap throughout the 1990s, until the early 2000s.

Reardon's research reviews kindergarten readiness indicators (e.g. academic achievement, self-control, students' approaches to learning, etc.) from students entering kindergarten in 1998-2010, to earlier cohorts of students (1970s-1998).  While the income achievement gap continues to increase, the kindergarten readiness gap decreased between these racial/ethnic subgroups.  Reardon does not know the cause of the narrowing readiness gap, but believes it is likely due to an increase in the quality and availability of early childhood education, as well as an increase in parent engagement, particularly among low income families.  An earlier study (Magnusson, Waldfoggel & Ruhm, 2004) links preschool attendance with kindergarten readiness factors, including higher math and reading achievement in elementary school, and narrowing achievement gaps between racial/ethnic and income level subgroups.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Preliminary Accountability Data Released

Preliminary Accountability Data:
Yesterday, August 26th, ESE provided all districts and schools with embargoed access to their full preliminary 2016 district and school accountability data via the Accountability Data application in the Security Portal.

 Superintendents, charter school leaders, or other district leaders must be assigned the security role "Accountability (District Level)" to access district data. Principals or other school leaders must be assigned the security role "Accountability (School Level)" to access school data. Each district’s Directory Administrator is responsible for assigning security roles to the appropriate district staff members.

 School and district leaders should review the preliminary accountability data and contact ESE at or 781-338-3550 with any questions or concerns. Preliminary accountability results do not reflect discrepancies reported during last week’s MCAS discrepancy reporting window and are subject to change. The Department is working to address the reported discrepancies for the official accountability release in September. 

One-hour webinars are scheduled to support districts in understanding their preliminary data on the following dates:
Monday, Aug 29th at 3pm
Tuesday, Sept 6th at 12pm
Thursday, Sept 15th at 10am

Registration is required using the following link:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

EWIS Reports Now Available!

EWIS for 2016-2017 school year are now available in Edwin, as well as the new Postsecondary EWIS report (EW602).

MA DESE will be holding webinars introducing the new Postsecondary EWIS reports on Tuesday, September 13 at 2pm, and Friday, September 16 at 10am.  Use the link below to register for one of these webinars...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Next Generation MCAS Update- Vendor Selected

MA DESE has signed a 5-year contract with Measured Progress in the development and administration of Next Generation MCAS assessments.  Measured Progress is the existing vendor for MCAS, and was one of two vendors to respond to ESE's RFP.  Measured Progress will subcontract with Pearson Education for supporting services, specifically online testing.

ESE notes that "department staff will continue their long-standing practice of contributing to and overseeing all aspects of work on the construction, production and administration of the new assessments, and Massachusetts educators will also continue to play a significant role in the development process."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

MA to Participate in PISA

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA):
As you may know, Massachusetts is participating in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for our state and in December OECD will announce how the state performed compared to the rest of world. 

Districts and individual schools have the opportunity to participate in the OECD Test for Schools, a global benchmarking tool that will provide you with a powerful assessment of your school’s performance and students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills; insight into student perceptions of learning; and access to a global network of peers. 

OECD details:
·          Voluntary participation;
·          Support to help you sign up and administer the test;
·          Online test administration;
·          Year-round scheduling at the school’s convenience;
·          A small sample of students participate  (85 15-year old students);
·          Total testing time is 3 ¼ hours, including breaks and time for the student survey; and
·          Within 6-8 weeks of administration, schools receive an in-depth, 150+ page report that includes data compared with international school systems.

The global learning network will link you and your team to a network of school leaders and other educators. For the first 25 Massachusetts schools that sign up, subsidies are available to help cover both the costs of the assessment and global learning network activities. These activities include a regional meeting next summer in Massachusetts where you and your team will get a briefing on your results and then participate in an international conference of the Global Learning Network in October 2017 held in Washington, DC. The Global Learning Network  encompasses 446 schools across 32 states and over 1,000 schools globally. This opportunity is made possible through a partnership involving: the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), America Achieves, and Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA).

For more information on how to participate in this opportunity, you can contact Rebecca Bennett ( on my staff or Brenda Wilson, of Northwest Evaluation Association, at (503) 260-2574 or

Friday, August 12, 2016

Next Generation MCAS Update

MCAS tests for grades 3-8 in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics will continue to be untimed in spring 2017. The computer-based version will be administered in Grades 4 and 8. The Department’s Office of Digital Learning will provide consultation and support for schools that anticipate difficulty. The plan for computer-based MCAS phase-in can be found on the Department’s website. 

ELA tests for grades 3-5 will be administered across three sessions for the equivalent total amount of time as in the past.

Monday, August 8, 2016

MA to Participate in Development of Social-Emotional Standards

The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was selected by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to participate in their Collaborating States Initiative this summer through Fall 2017. The eight participating states include California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington. 

The purpose of the project is to support states through efforts to adopt and implement clearly defined, research-based policies, guidelines, and/or standards to support statewide implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL). We will update you on future opportunities for stakeholders to provide input. Massachusetts welcomes this opportunity to learn with, and from, other states as we seek to develop policies and guidance to best support Massachusetts' students.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

U.S. Education Department Provides Assessment Guidance

President Obama has directed the U.S. Education Department (U.S.E.D.) to review its policies to address any places where the Administration may have contributed to the problem of overemphasis on testing burdening classroom time. Last Spring the U.S.E.D. released a Testing Action Plan, setting forth principles for fewer and smarter assessments and a set of actions to reduce over-testing. The plan proposes assessments should be:

  • Worth Taking 
  • Fully Transparent to Students and Parents
  • High Quality 
  • Just One of Multiple Measures
  • Time-limited 
  • Tied to Improved Learning
  • Fair 

Along with this plan are several case studies that share how states and districts are working to make assessment practices meaningful for students, parents, and educators. The Massachusetts model is among those presented because it ensures that growth in student learning is included in a meaningful way, balanced with other factors. In a statement that accompanied the release, Education Secretary John King said, “Done well, assessments are tools for learning and promoting equity. Done poorly, in excess or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creative approaches from our classrooms.”

Monday, July 25, 2016

Next Generation MCAS Update

The review panel for the Next Generation MCAS has decided to continue with the MCAS tradition of untimed tests in grade 3-8 ELA and math for Spring 2017.  While districts that took PARCC in 2014, 2015 or 2016 experienced timed assessments, all districts will take untimed MCAS assessments in Spring 2017.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

EWIS Updates

In the most recent Commissioner's Update (see below), a new EWIS student report, soon to be released, was outlined.  To access this new report, and other EWIS student reports, districts and schools need to make sure that their SIMS and other student collection data is up to date.

Districts/Educators will have access to a new student level report in the next release of the Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS), the EWIS Postsecondary Readiness model. The new model is being developed by ESE, with funding from the US Department of Education, to provide risk levels for high school students related to meeting postsecondary outcomes. The expanded EWIS will use data on the higher education outcomes of students who previously graduated from high school in the Commonwealth. For more information on EWIS, please visit

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Teacher and Principal Advisory Cabinet Accepting Applications through Aug. 1st

Applications for the Department’s Teacher and Principal Advisory Cabinet and Applications for the Student Teaching Partnership Consortium are open until August 1st .

The Advisory Cabinet is open to teachers and school-based administrators.

Members of ESE’s Teacher and Principal Advisory Cabinets provide crucial feedback and input on ESE policies and resources! Members increase their knowledge of state education policies, build relationships with educators across the state, and position themselves as go-to resources and leaders in their districts. Additionally, members will work closely with ESE staff on a year-long project aligned with a key educator effectiveness initiative.

Apply at

Applications are open to all district and charter school teachers and school-based administrators.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Higher Education Determining College Readiness Through Common Core Aligned HS Tests

Kentucky recently announced its acceptance of PARCC scores at Level 4 and 5 as a college readiness placement exam, exempting students from any remedial work in KY public colleges and universities. Kentucky is not a member of the PARCC consortium, but the state's move follows a growing national trend to accept Common Core aligned high school exams in lieu of placement exams, such as the Accuplacer, and in place of remedial coursework.  Colleges are now accepting Smarter Balanced or PARCC assessment scores, seeing it as another "avenue for students to demonstrate college readiness" (Rhonda Epper, Colorado Department of Higher Education).  Below are the numbers of higher education institutions currently accepting a Common Core test in the following states:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Predictive Validity of MCAS and PARCC

In a study on Common Core-aligned tests, Mathematic Policy Research compared MCAS grade 10 assessments with PARCC Integrated Math, Algebra II and 10th grade ELA tests, finding that MCAS high school student scores predict college and career readiness as well as PARCC student scores.  Key findings of the study include:
  • "Both the MCAS and the PARCC predict college readiness: The validity of scores on PARCC assessments in predicting college grades is similar to the validity of scores on the MCAS.
  • Scores on both the MCAS and PARCC provide similarly strong predictions about which students need remedial coursework in college.
  • In math, meeting the PARCC standard for college readiness predicts a higher level of college performance than meeting the MCAS standard for proficiency, while in English language arts the two standards are similar.
  • In math, students who achieve the college-ready standard on PARCC are also less likely to need remediation than students who achieve the proficient standard on MCAS, while in English language arts the two standards are not statistically distinguishable."

Thursday, June 9, 2016

US DOE Releases Civil Rights Data Collection

Every two years the US Department of Education collects data on all students spending at least 50% of their time in public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, juvenile justice institutions, and special education programs.  Yesterday, the DOE released its most recent Civil Rights data from SY2013-14.  Data collection includes:

  • Demographics
  • Student enrollment
  • Discipline and bullying
  • Early childhood education 
  • Pathways to college and career
  • Teacher quality and equity
  • Use of restraint and seclusion
  • School finance
  • Teachers holding state licenses and certifications
  • Police officers assigned to campus
  • Types of incidents that trigger police response to schools
The site provides current (SY13-14) as well as past school data, as well as data tables and data analysis tools.  Data analysis tools allow users to compare districts or schools across a number of indicators of student behavior.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

PARCC Released Sample Items

Many of the schools DSAC supports are currently developing common grade-level assessments, based on Common Core standards and aligned to the PARCC and MCAS Next Generation summative assessments.  PARCC's Partnership Resource Center is a helpful resource to identifying rigorous assessment items aligned to summative tests, using the released item and practice test features.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Boston EdTalks

Earlier this month, Boston held its 5th annual EdTalks, a convening of teachers to share brief presentations of best practices from across the state.  Check out the EdTalk videos from this year's teacher presenters, as well as previous presentations including: From Data to Action: Early Warning Indicators to Design Student Support Systems.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Applications for ESE's Teacher and Principal Advisory Cabinets

Applications for ESE’s Teacher and Principal Advisory Cabinets Due May 31st
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is currently accepting applications for the 2016-17 Teacher and Principal Advisory Cabinets. Educators on these cabinets provide crucial feedback and input on ESE policies and resources. Members increase their knowledge of state education policies, build relationships with educators across the state, and position themselves as go-to resources and leaders in their districts. Additionally, members will work closely with ESE staff on a year-long project aligned with a key educator effectiveness initiative.

Applications are due Tuesday, May 31st 2016.

·         The Teacher Advisory Cabinets are open to all educators who work with students across grade levels and content areas—including specialists, coaches, and specialized instructional support personnel.
·         The Principal Advisory Cabinets are open to all school-level administrators, including principals, assistant principals, department chairs, and charter school leaders.
·         When applying, educators will have the option to select a Cabinet in the eastern part of the state (meeting in Malden) or the central/western part of the state (meeting west of Worcester).

Applications are available at To learn more about the Cabinets, you can watch this short video of Cabinet members talking about their experiences and check out the 2014-15 Teacher Advisory Cabinet Summary and Principal Advisory Cabinets Summary.

Monday, May 16, 2016

2016-2017 Next Generation MCAS Testing Schedule Released

  • One Extended Window for Grades 3-8
    Traditionally, MCAS testing has been separated into two administration periods: an early window for English Language Arts, and a later window for Mathematics and Science and Technology/Engineering (STE).
    Beginning in 2017, grades 3-8 tests in ELA, Mathematics, and STE will be administered during one extended window for all subject area tests. This minimizes the number of interruptions during the school year and allows more time for schools doing computer-based testing.
    In fall 2016, the Department will provide additional guidance on administering grades 3-8 tests, such as the number and length of test sessions, whether sessions will be generously timed, and whether there will be a prescribed order for testing.
  • High School Test Dates Similar to Those in Previous Years
    The testing dates in 2017 for high school testing are different from the testing window for grades 3-8 to accommodate the two separate testing windows, since the spring 2017 grade 10 tests are mirroring previous years' test design. In future years, high school test dates and grades 3-8 test dates may be administered concurrently again, depending on high school testing plans.
    Dates for high school tests closely align with what has been done in previous years (e.g., which day of the week the test will fall on, allowing for calendar shift).

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Upcoming REL Webinar on MA Early Warning System Implementation

Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the State Role in Supporting Early Warning System Implementation

What is the role of state education agencies in supporting the implementation of early warning systems (EWSs) to identify students at risk of not graduating from high school? Join Susan Therriault, REL Northeast & Islands, for an overview of the state role in EWS implementation, along with Kate Sandel, Massachusetts Department of Education, and John Gimpl, Minnesota Department of Education. They will discuss their processes for organizing, implementing, monitoring, and adjusting their EWSs and the supports (team members, training, guidance, resources) available in their states to support EWS work and confront challenges to implementation. Strategies to connect EWS work to other state agency programs and priorities will also be discussed.
  • Susan Therriault, EdD
    Principal Researcher, REL Northeast & Islands
  • Kate Sandel
    Senior Policy Analyst, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • John Gimpl
    State Implementation Leader, Minnesota Department of Education

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How Summit Public Schools is Using Facebook to Personalize Learning

On Thursday, May 4, Harvard's Graduate School of Education will be holding a public Askwith Forum featuring the partnership between Facebook and Summit Public Schools in developing an online personalized learning platform in the classroom.  The presentation will include discussions with a teacher, principal and student from the first cohort.

More information can be found here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Harvard Study Finds Successful CCSS Implementation Leads to Higher Math Scores

A new study by the Center for Education Policy Research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education finds that schools and districts that have successfully implemented CCSS achieved higher scores on PARCC and Smarter Balance assessments.  Surveying a representative sample of teachers from Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Nevada, researchers found that teachers and principals have made great strides in implementing CCSS at the classroom level, making changes to lesson plans, classroom materials, and in some cases teacher evaluation systems, to "embrace" the new standards.

The study also found that "the frequency and specificity of feedback from classroom observations," professional development focused on CCSS, and "the inclusion of student performance on CCSS-aligned assessments in teacher evaluations" correlated with higher test scores on math PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments.

The full report and abstract can be found here:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Top 5 Questions About the MA System of Accountability

Pulled from the questions we frequently hear, here are the top 5 answers to your top 5 questions about the MA system of accountability:

5. Economically disadvantaged = Free and reduced price lunch?
While low income students were formerly identified by their free and reduced price lunch status, the subgroup "Economically Disadvantaged" identifies students who participate in state-aid programs.  These programs include: MassHealth, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, foster care, homeless aid programs, and state-aid programs.

4. Economically disadvantaged = Low Income?
Its a new name and a new subgroup, but are the kids the same?  You'll find quite a bit of overlap between 2014 low income students and 2015 economically disadvantaged students.  These are similar subgroups as they both identify students of poverty.  However, the identification method is different.  Moving away from free and reduced price lunch to students participating in state-aid programs, this is a similar but not the same subgroup as the former "Low Income" designation.

3. Will Next Generation MCAS include PARCC items?
While the Next Generation MCAS will build on the previous MCAS assessments, it will include many PARCC items, as well as items specific to MA.

2. Is it true that first-year ELLs do not take MCAS/PARCC?
While first-year ELLs are not required to take the ELA MCAS/PARCC, it is still an option.  This is a decision to be made at the school-level, depending on a students' level of English proficiency.  However, first-year ELLs must take the ACCESS assessment.
However, first-year ELLs are required take the math MCAS/PARCC and science MCAS assessments.

1. Why do first-year ELL MCAS/PARCC count toward a school or district's accountability?
First-year ELL MCAS or PARCC scores, in any content area, do not count toward a school or district's CPI or SGP calculations. While first-year ELLs are required to take the math MCAS/PARCC and science MCAS assessments, their test scores are used for diagnostic purposes only, and are not included in summary results or state/federal accountability data.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Next Generation MCAS Testing: Update

Next Generation MCAS testing is currently being developed.  This revised assessment will incorporate existing MCAS items, items that MA and other states developed through PARCC, and items unique to the Next Generation MCAS.  More information on the progress for developing this new generation can be found here.

  • Next Generation ELA and Math MCAS will be administered in Spring 2017 with grades 3-8.
  • Grade 10 ELA and math assessments will likely transition to a similar test in 2018, while the existing MCAS will remain a graduation requirement through the class of 2019.  The existing MCAS will continue to be offered as a retest through at least 2021.
  • Science and technology/engineering testing will transition to align with the recently approved science frameworks, and will move to a next generation, computer-based assessment over the next several years.
  • Computer based testing will be phased in throughout the Commonwealth over the next two years.
  • All testing state-wide will be computer-based by 2019.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Preparing for the Spring 2016 PARCC Assessment

PARCC added new online resources to help teachers and students prepare for this year's summative assessment, as well as understand the changes from the 2015 assessment.  Check out