Determining How Students with Disabilities Will Participate in MCAS: During its annual meeting, the LMACS IEP Team must determine how the student will participate in MCAS for each subject scheduled for assessment. This information, including any accommodations that a student will use, must be documented in the student’s IEP plan.
MCAS Participation Guidelines: This section provides the guidelines that IEP teams should use at annual team meetings to determine how each student with a disability will participate in MCAS.
The student’s IEP Team should begin by asking these questions and considering options 1, 2, and 3 in the chart that follows:
- Can the student take the standard MCAS test under routine conditions?
- Can the student take the standard MCAS test with accommodations? If so, which accommodations are absolutely necessary in order for the student to participate?
- Does the student require an alternate assessment? (Alternate assessments are intended for a very small number of students with significant disabilities who are unable to take standard MCAS tests, even with accommodations.)
The student’s IEP Team must make a separate decision for each subject scheduled for testing. These decisions may be revised each time the team convenes. A student may take the standard test in one subject and the alternate assessment in another.
MCAS ALTERNATE ASSESSMENTS: Guidance on Designating Students for the MCAS-Alt
Decisions regarding participation in statewide assessments must be discussed at the student’s annual IEP team meeting and be documented in the IEP.
The Department requests that IEP team members familiarize themselves with the criteria used to designate students for alternate assessments. The criteria listed below together with the Decision-Making Tool for MCAS-Alt Participation should be used by teams as the basis for making annual assessment decisions for each student in each subject required for academic assessment.
Criteria for Designating a Student for an Alternate Assessment: A student with a disability should take the MCAS-Alt if he or she
- is working on learning standards in the content area that have been substantially modified due to the severity of the disability; and
- is receiving intensive, individualized instruction in order to acquire, generalize, and demonstrate knowledge and skills; and
- is unable to demonstrate knowledge and skills on a standardized paper or online test, even with accommodations.
Students with significant disabilities should be considered for participation in either a “grade-level” portfolio in grades 3 8 or a high school “competency” portfolio, in cases where the student
- is performing classroom work at or near grade-level; and
- cannot demonstrate knowledge and skills on the paper- or computer-based MCAS test in that grade and subject, even with accommodations, due to a disability; and
- is attempting to earn a score equivalent to the score of a student who takes the standard MCAS tests, rather than attempting to earn an alternate achievement level score of Progressing, Emerging, or Awareness.
“Grade-level” and “competency” portfolios assess a broad range of grade-level standards through an expanded collection of work samples, rather than the comparatively small number of standards assessed in the basic MCAS-Alt portfolio, as described on pages 40 53 in the Educator’s Manual for MCAS-Alt . (Note: “Competency” portfolios may also be used to satisfy the requirements of a Competency Determination in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and/or Science and Technology/Engineering.)
Teams should not assume that a student should take an alternate assessment based on the fact that he or she
- has not been provided instruction in the general curriculum;
- has a specific disability (e.g., all students with intellectual disabilities should not automatically be designated for the MCAS-Alt);
- is placed in a program or classroom where it is expected that students will take the MCAS-Alt;
- has taken an alternate assessment previously (since this is an annual decision);
- has previously failed the MCAS test;
- is an English language learner;
- is from a low-income family or is a child in foster care;
- requires the use of assistive technology or an alternative augmentative communication system; or
- attends a school in which the IEP team may have been influenced to designate the student for an alternate assessment in order for the school to receive disproportionate credit toward the school’s accountability rating.
Other Considerations: When an IEP team (or 504 plan coordinator) is undecided as to which assessment format is most appropriate for a particular student, the Department recommends that the standard test, either with or without accommodations, be assigned as the default assessment format for the student.
When assigning the standard test, teams should also deliberate as to whether it would be more appropriate for a student to take the computer-based next-generation MCAS test (for which universally designed accessibility features, tools, and accommodations are available) or a paper-based MCAS test (offered as an accommodation instead of the computer-based test).
When the decision is made to administer a standard MCAS test, with or without accommodations, the IEP team should evaluate after administration whether useful information was provided by the test results. If so, it may be preferable to have the student continue taking the standard MCAS test in that subject because of the broad range of standards that are assessed and reported on MCAS tests compared to the limited standards assessed in an MCAS-Alt portfolio.
Recommended Participation in MCAS
- generally able to demonstrate knowledge and skills on a paper-and-pencil test, either with or without test accommodations, and is
- working on learning standards at or near grade-level expectations or is
- working on learning standards that have been modified and are somewhat below grade-level expectations due to the nature of the student’s disability,
Then the student should take the standard MCAS test, either with or without accommodations that are consistent with the instructional accommodation(s) used in the student’s instructional program and are documented in the approved IEP or 504 plan prior to testing.
If the student is
- generally unable to demonstrate knowledge and skills on a paper-and-pencil test, even with accommodations, and is
- working on learning standards that have been substantially modified due to the nature and severity of their disability, and is receiving intensive, individualized instruction in order to acquire, generalize, and demonstrate knowledge and skills,
Then the student should take the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt) in this subject.
If the student is
- working on learning standards at or near grade-level expectations and is
- sometimes able to take a paper-and-pencil test, either without or with one or more test accommodation(s) but
- has a complex and significant disability that does not allow the student to fully demonstrate knowledge and skills on a test of this format and duration,
(Examples of complex and significant disabilities for which the student may require an alternate assessment are provided on the following page.)
Then, the student should take the standard MCAS test, if possible, with necessary accommodations that are consistent with the instructional accommodation(s) used in the student’s instructional program and that are documented in the approved IEP or 504 plan prior to testing.
However, the team may recommend the MCAS-Alt when the severity and complexity of the disability prevent the student from fully demonstrating knowledge and skills on the standard test, even with the use of accommodations. In this case, the MCAS-Alt “grade-level” portfolio should be compiled and submitted.
C. Complex and Significant Disabilities for Which a Student May Require an Alternate Assessment
While the majority of students who take alternate assessments have significant cognitive disabilities, participation in the MCAS-Alt is not limited to these students. When the nature and complexity of a student’s disability present significant barriers or challenges to standardized testing, even with the use of accommodations, and even when the student may be working at or near grade-level expectations, the student’s IEP or 504 team may determine that the student should participate in MCAS-Alt in one or more subjects.
In addition to the criteria outlined in options 2 and 3 on the previous page, the following examples of unique circumstances are provided to expand the team’s understanding of the appropriate use of alternate assessments. An alternate assessment may be administered, for example, in each of the following situations:
- A student with a severe emotional, behavioral, or other disability is unable to maintain sufficient concentration to participate in standard testing, even with test accommodations.
- A student with a severe health-related disability, neurological disorder, or other complex disability cannot meet the demands of a prolonged test administration.
- A student with a significant motor, communication, or other disability requires more time than is reasonable or available for testing, even with the allowance of extended time (i.e., The student cannot complete one full test session in a school day.).
These students may use the MCAS-Alt to satisfy the CD requirement if they can demonstrate in their portfolio a level of achievement comparable to that of a student who has met the CD requirements by taking the standard grade 10 test or retest in that subject. Students who meet these requirements on the MCAS-Alt will be eligible to earn a CD.
MCAS Participation Guidelines for IEP/504 Team Decision–Making
The “decision tree” may be used by IEP and 504 teams to make decisions annually regarding appropriate student participation in MCAS for each content area(s) being assessed.
Participation in General State and District-wide Assessment Programs
- All students with disabilities who are attending LMACS are included in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and other district-wide assessment programs.
- The IEP Teams designate how each student will participate and, if necessary, provide an alternate assessment.
- The Executive Director will file an MCAS performance appeal for a student with a disability when the student’s parent or guardian or the student, if 18 or over, requests it, provided that the student meets the eligibility requirements for such an appeal;
- obtain the consent of the parent or guardian or the student, if 18 or over, for any MCAS performance appeal filed on behalf of a student with a disability;
- include in the MCAS performance appeal, to the extent possible, the required evidence of the student’s knowledge and skills in the subject at issue.
MCAS Performance Appeals
A. Eligibility Criteria
For a performance appeal to be considered, a superintendent or executive director must submit evidence that shows that the student meets the following eligibility requirements:*
- The student has taken the test/retest in the content area of the appeal, as follows:
- For English Language Arts (ELA), at least three times (or completed the ELA MCAS-Alt twice) at the high school level
- For Mathematics, at least three times (or completed the Mathematics MCAS-Alt twice) at the high school level
- For Science and Technology/Engineering (STE), at least once (or completed an STE MCAS-Alt once) at the high school level and is currently enrolled in a high school STE course or has completed grade 12. The appeal must be in the same STE discipline as the MCAS test taken by the student.
- The student has maintained a minimum attendance rate of 95% during the school year prior to and during the year of the appeal (e.g., no more than nine days absent from school during a 180-day school year).
- The student has participated in school-sponsored tutoring or other academic support services in the content area of the appeal.
- The student has taken the test/retest in the content area of the appeal, as follows:
The Commissioner has the authority to waive one or more of the eligibility requirements described above if there are extenuating circumstances such as serious illness, childcare commitments, hardship, or disability. In such cases, the superintendent or executive director must include a written justification for a waiver with the appeal application.
If an appeal is denied, or if the appeals review board is not able to make a determination on the appeal, but additional information becomes available, the district may submit a subsequent appeal on behalf of the student, as long as the student meets the eligibility requirements. If an STE appeal has been denied, the student must take another MCAS discipline-specific test in either the same or a different high school STE subject (i.e., biology, chemistry, introductory physics, or technology/engineering) in order to be eligible for a subsequent appeal.
Last Updated on December 9, 2022