MCAS: Tips to Help Your Child
Parents and families can do several things to create a positive test-taking experience and help students prepare for tests. Here are some ideas:
Throughout the Year
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep, eats properly, and gets to school on time. During test time, make this a special effort.
- Encourage your child to READ, READ, READ. No activity is linked to academic success as much as reading. Even the math portion of the MCAS uses word problems to test problem-solving ability.
- Write test dates on your home calendar. The MCAS test schedule is online at www.doe.mass.edu/ mcas/cal.html
- Talk with your child’s teacher(s) often to see what you can do at home to support our child’s work in school. Ask for regular progress reports.
- Review your child’s previous year’s MCAS report. See “After the Test” below.
- Encourage your child to participate in practice-test opportunities.
- If your child is having difficulty with a subject, call the school and ask if extra support in that subject is offered.
- Praise your children for working hard and for the things they do well.
- Set times each day for study and homework.
- Ask about homework every day, and check to see that it is completed.
- Give your child a quiet, well-lit, comfortable place to study.
- Help your child practice MCAS test questions. Review the test together so you will all getfamiliar with the expectations.
- Previous years’ MCAS tests are online at www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/testitems.html
If your child has a disability, meet with the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Team to decide how your child will participate. A student with a disability is entitled to receive appropriate accommodations for test taking, similar to the ones they need every day for learning. Some students are entitled to take the MCAS-Alt —an “alternate assessment”—in order to better demonstrate what they know. The Team’s decisions are written in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan, and are subject to parent approval. (Refer to the participation requirements manual to learn more about test accommodations and alternate assessments at www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/accessibility
Day of the Test
- Make sure that your child is well rested and eats breakfast.
- See that your child arrives at school on time and is relaxed.
- Comfort counts: send a sweater if it’s a cool day, or dress in layers for a warm day.
- Send along all the needed tools—sharpened pencils, pens, rulers, etc.
- Encourage your child to do the best work possible and to have a positive attitude.
- Encourage your child to listen/read carefully to all test-taking directions and to ask questions if any directions are unclear.
- Remind your child not to get stuck on any one test question. Move on to other questions and return to the difficult one later.
- Encourage your child to check answers for accuracy if time permits.
After the Test
Early in the academic year, families receive a Parent /Guardian Report from their child’s school. This document offers a detailed description of how their student’s performance on the previous spring’s MCAS tests. Parents of students who participate in the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt) receive two Parent / Guardian Reports: one standard report, which indicates that the student took the alternate assessment, and a second report that outlines the student’s performance on the alternate assessment. You can review the actual test items on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website at www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/accessibility. Local libraries often have printed copies of the test questions and answers as well.
For the class of 2020 or earlier, a score of 220 (or performance level of “Needs Improvement”), is the minimum required to pass. Classes of 2021 and later will participate in an updated test with a different scoring system. For these students, a minimum score of 470 on Math and ELA, (or a performance level of “Partially Meeting Expectations”), is considered the minimum required to pass. Tenth grade students who pass MCAS with “Needs Improvement” or “Partially Meeting Expectations” performance levels must successfully complete an Educational Proficiency Plan developed by the school in order to satisfy MCAS requirements. Tenth graders who have not passed MCAS are also required to have Educational Proficiency Plans. If your child has scored below these thresholds, ask if the school is offering him or her extra tutoring or support. Encourage your child to take part in the academic support programs your school or district offers.
Students who score below the minimum passing criteria on the grade 10 tests will have more opportunities to take and pass these tests. “Retest” opportunities are provided each fall and spring for out-of-school youth, as well as for 11th and 12th graders who did not pass. The MCAS Performance Appeals process provides another way for students who have taken the test three times to show that they have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to meet grade 10 standards. For more on the appeals process, contact your high school principal or guidance office, visit the parents’ page at www.doe.mass.edu/mcasappeals.
It is important to review all parent reports you receive, as they can help identify areas of strength and weakness. For example, were scores higher in math or English? Were math skills stronger in computation or in solving word problems? Praise your child’s testing strengths and make a plan to address identified weaknesses. If your child’s test score is not consistent with his or her grades, contact your child’s teacher or counselor. Your child’s teacher can also be a resource if you need additional help understanding how your child performed on the test.