Testing / Assessment
Assessment: Measuring Student Achievement
Throughout the school year, teachers test, or assess, students on what they have learned and what they can do. Assessment includes paper-and-pencil tests, oral and written reports, performances, and projects. Teachers or the companies that publish the textbooks used in schools create some of the tests our students take. Other tests, such as the Boston Public Schools mid-course and end-of-course assessments in English language arts, math, history, and science, are created by BPS educators for use in all BPS schools.
The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), is given in every public school in the state. The BPS also uses a variety of reading and math tests that are given in school districts all over the United States.
- For the specific tests given in each grade, see the Guide to the BPS for Students and Families on the Publications page.
- For information on your child’s performance, ask the teacher, principal, or headmaster.
- For general questions about assessment, call the Office of Research, Assessment and Evaluation, 617-635-9450.
Every student who attends a Massachusetts public school in grades 3-10 must take MCAS tests. The subjects tested vary by grade. They include English language arts (ELA), reading comprehension, mathematics, science and technology/engineering, and history/social science.
MCAS tests how well students and schools are meeting the learning standards set by the state. MCAS is a mixture of multiple choice questions (where a student chooses from a list of possible answers) and short answer and open-ended questions (where the student writes or shows an answer). Students in grades 4, 7, and 10 also write a composition as part of their English language arts test. To see all MCAS test questions for tests given in 1998–2012, visit the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.
How are MCAS results used?
Educators, parents, and students use MCAS results to:
- follow student progress: the MCAS is one of several tests that the Boston Public Schools uses to make promotion decisions
- identify strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in curriculum and instruction
- gather information that can be used to improve student performance
- identify students who may need extra academic support.
The Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) uses MCAS results and other data to determine if schools and districts are meeting standards for improving student academic performance. In addition, as required by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Mass. DESE reports on the Adequate Yearly Progress of schools and districts based on MCAS results.
The MCAS Graduation Requirement
In addition to meeting their coursework and attendance requirements, students must pass grade 10 MCAS in English language arts and mathematics in order to graduate from high school. Starting with the Class of 2010, students also must pass one of the MCAS high school science tests in order to graduate from high school. Students who do not pass MCAS the first time can retake it in high school, and even after they leave high school. If, however, a student has taken the tests at least three times or has participated in the MCAS Alternative Assessment twice and has not yet passed the ELA and/or math test, the student may be eligible to file an MCAS Performance Appeal. Check with the school headmaster to see if your child is eligible to have an appeal filed with the Massachusetts Department of Education.
For more information about MCAS
- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
- MCAS Parent Information Hotline: 1-866-MCAS-220