MCAS Update (Grades 3-8)

MCAS Update (Grades 3-8)
Posted on 04/16/2021
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Dear CPS Families and Guardians of Students in Grades 3-8,

Every spring, students across the state participate in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), which are tests that measure the degree to which students are learning the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks relative to the expectations for each grade level.

The state is proceeding with MCAS this year. CPS’s goal, as it is every year, is to make MCAS as minimally disruptive to students and teachers so that we can maximize our ongoing commitments to rigorous, joyful and culturally responsive teaching and learning every day across our schools.

We know you may have a lot of questions about MCAS. Here are some key facts for families of students in grades 3 - 8:
  • Federal and state law require all students in grades 3 - 8 to take the MCAS in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, and students in grades 5 and 8 in Science, Technology & Engineering (STE)
  • The state has shortened this year’s MCAS tests, which are expected to take 1 - 1.5 hours in math and STE and 2 - 2.5 hours in ELA.
  • There will be no negative impact to students based on their MCAS results or a family’s refusal to participate.
  • This year, the state will not use MCAS participation rates or results to penalize schools or districts.
  • CPS uses a range of assessment tools to understand student progress and areas of need.
More details can be found in the FAQs below and on the CPS website’s MCAS page and

We know how much incredible work goes into teaching and learning every day in CPS. Thank you for your continued partnership supporting our students.


Kenneth N. Salim, Ed.D.

Spring 2021 MCAS - Grades 3-8
Frequently Asked Questions from CPS Families 

1. What grades are taking the MCAS this year and in what subjects?
  • Grades 3-8: English Learning Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.
  • Grades 5 and 8: Science Technology & Engineering (STE) MCAS
2. When will MCAS be scheduled for? Individual schools determine the specific testing dates within the following testing windows established by the state:
  • Grades 3-5: May 10 - June 11
  • Grades 6-8: May 17 - June 11
3. How long does MCAS take? This year, the state has shortened MCAS to reduce its impact on teaching and learning.
MCAS tests are untimed and students may take as long as they need
Expected to take between 2 to 2 ½ hours in ELA and 1 to ½ hours in Math and STE

4. How will remote students take MCAS? All students will take MCAS on computers, as has been the case for several years now. Remote learners in grades 3 - 8 will take the MCAS remotely. More information is expected from the state soon.

5. Can students “opt out” of taking MCAS? Federal and state law require CPS to participate in MCAS, which the state considers a mandatory part of the curriculum. According to DESE, participation by all students ensures the rights of our most vulnerable students to learn. To reinforce the importance of measuring the learning of all students, the state’s accountability system traditionally penalizes school districts where participation rates are too low, but this penalty is currently waived for Spring 2021 due to the pandemic.

6. How will MCAS scores impact my student (grades 3-8)? Spring 2021 MCAS scores will have no impact on students in grades 3-8, and should only be viewed as one source of information about a student’s academic progress.

7. What about students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs)? The state has set extensive testing guidelines for English Learners and for students with disabilities who may be on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan. District and school staff know these guidelines and will make sure that all needed accommodations are followed so that we can accurately assess all students based on their skills and learning.

8. What information will families receive about their student learning from MCAS? Families receive MCAS reports in the fall which provide information on how your child did on the MCAS, in comparison to the school, district and state, and in each "reporting category" such as life sciences, geometry or reading.

9. What other information does the district use to monitor student achievement? CPS is engaged in ongoing assessment to inform teaching and learning every day. Learn more about our approach to assessment here.
  • CPS’s SY20-21 elementary assessment calendar
  • CPS’s SY20-21 upper school assessment calendar
Families will also receive end-of-year report cards and have parent-teacher conferences to close out the year.
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