Published in the October 26, 2016 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Students in grades 3-8 will be taking the new MCAS 2.0 exam electronically this spring, Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay told the School Committee last week.
Students in grades 3-8 as well as high school sophomores take the MCAS English and math exams. Additionally, students in grades 5, 8 and high school freshmen take the MCAS science exam.
Last year, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the new MCAS 2.0 exam after state education officials debated for two years on whether or not to keep MCAS or adopt PARCC. The PARCC exam was developed by a national consortium, which includes Massachusetts.
The MCAS 2.0 exam will be given for the first time in the spring of 2017. The new test will incorporate questions that were included on the MCAS and PARCC exams along with items developed specifically for the Massachusetts tests.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is in the process of upgrading the exam. In a news release, DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester said the new will exam will “build upon the best aspects of the MCAS assessments that have served the commonwealth well for the past two decades.”
“The test will include innovative items developed by PARCC, along with new items specifically created to assess the Massachusetts learning standards,” said Chester.
The MCAS 2.0 exam will also be computer–based, which will be implemented statewide by spring 2019.
“The plan is to phase-in computer-based testing so that computer-based tests are fully administered statewide in 2019, with many students participating as well in 2017 and 2018,” said Chester.
In the wake of MCAS 2.0 moving toward becoming a computer-based test, Tremblay said school officials decided to have students take the exam with a device instead of pencil and paper.
“We did not have to choose to do this this year but we decided to get the kinks out,” said Tremblay. “After having a conversation with the principals, we decided to do it is because we are going to have to do it sooner or later. We feel we are well equipped to do it.”
Tremblay said Middle School Principal Stephen Ralston, Summer Street School Principal Jen DiBiase and Huckleberry Hill School Principal Brian Bemiss are working to develop their schedules in order to make sure there are enough devices available to students.
“We have worked with the technology department, and Technology Director Vincent Ruocco has assured me that we have enough devices,” said Tremblay. “The elementary schools will be borrowing some devices from the middle school in order for this to work.”
Tremblay said the school department will be “held harmless” the first year the MCAS 2.0 exam gets administered.
“We understand there will be some frustration and some bumps in the road,” said Tremblay. “But we feel like this is a good choice to do this now to get the kids used to it.”
MCAS has been used since 1998. Passing the exam’s English language arts and math portions became a high school graduation requirement in 2003. A science and technology requirement was added in 2010.
Chester said Massachusetts will have complete control of test administration, test content, testing windows and reporting of results.