All students and families in this Commonwealth are quite familiar with the statewide testing program where participation is mandatory. The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS)* is designed to meet the requirements of the Education Reform Law of 1993. This law specifies that the testing program must
- test all public school students in Massachusetts, including students with disabilities and limited English proficient students;
- measure performance based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework learning standards;
- report on the performance of individual students, schools, and districts.
All students in the Dearborn Elementary/Middle school participate in all MCAS tests scheduled for their grades by taking the standard MCAS tests with or without accommodations or by participating in the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt). A student's IEP or 504 team determines how a student with a disability will participate in MCAS and documents this information in the student's IEP or 504 plan.
At Dearborn, in addition to being taught how to take such tests, students are given special preparation and encouragement around MCAS testing. Any kind of testing can be quite challenging for our students so we approach MCAS with empathy and understanding for their frustrations. Snacks are given out during testing sessions and regular academic workloads are often lessened on testing days to account for the added pressure of the MCAS.
The law allows for accommodations to be made to assist students with particular learning challenges to demonstrate their grasp of the material. The common accommodations that students in our program have during the test are:
- small group or one-on-one testing
- familiar administrator
- the use of graphic organizers
- extra time
- frequent breaks
- monitoring, tracking, and the clarification of the directions.
Some students also have accommodations that allow them to use a word processor for long responses, a calculator on non-calculator parts of the math test, or a reader for the directions and prompts. All of these accommodations are clearly stated in each student’s individual education plan.
Test scores are documented and reported to the student's parents and sending district. Each year of testing is a crucial practice year for the eventual high-stakes testing in the 10th grade.
As required by the Education Reform Law, students must pass the grade 10 tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics as one condition of eligibility for a high school diploma (in addition to fulfilling local requirements). Ninth graders have the option of taking one of the 10th grade Science MCAS tests as well.
*Some Massachusetts schools are also partaking in the PARCC this year, a standardized test based on the Common Core State Standards. While our school is waiting to see how this new test evolves, our staff continues to keep up with the newest strategies in applying both the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and the Common Core State Standards to their lessons.