• 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 end-of-course assessments in English language arts, math, history, and science, are created by BPS educators for use in all BPS schools, in partnership with assessment companies.

    A new generation of the statewide standards-based assessments for ELA and mathematics was first given in grades 3 through 8 in Spring 2017 and in grades 10 in Spring 2019 in every public school district and charter school in the state.

    BPS also uses a variety of reading and math tests that are given in school districts all over the United States. For specific tests given in each grade, click here and search by grade range. 


    Every student in grades 3-10 attending a Massachusetts public school takes MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) tests. The subjects tested vary by grade and include English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science and technology/engineering (STE).

    In fall 2015, new MCAS assessments were developed. This ‘next generation’ MCAS 2.0 (ELA and mathematics) was given to students in grades 3-8 in spring 2017. The legacy grade 10 MCAS was extended to the class of 2020. This means that MCAS 2.0 tests in ELA and Math will be given to 10th graders (class of 2021) for the first time in spring 2019. Students in grades 5 and 8 will take the next generation MCAS STE test for the first time in spring 2019 as well.

    MCAS 2.0 is designed to predict student’s readiness for college and aligns with the updated Massachusetts state curriculum standards.   

    The new MCAS test builds upon the best aspects of the MCAS assessments that have served the Commonwealth well for the past two decades and include innovative items developed by the previously used PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) test, along with new items specifically created to assess the Massachusetts learning standards.

    MCAS 2.0 is designed to be taken on a computer but also has a paper and pencil version. The plan is to phase in computer-based testing so that they are fully administered statewide in 2019.

    Educators, parents, and students use test results to:

      • follow student progress
      • identify strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in curriculum and instruction
      • gather the information that can be used to improve student performance
      • identify students who may need extra academic support
      • identify academic growth students have made from one grade to the next.

    The Massachusetts 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 the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), DESE reports on the progress and performance of schools and districts based on MCAS results.

    Read more Information about MCAS on the BPS website and the Mass. Dept. of Elementary & Secondary Education website. Also, see MCAS test items here.

    The MCAS Graduation Requirement

    In order to graduate from high school, students must earn a Competency Determination (CD) in ELA, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering (STE) as well as meeting their coursework and attendance requirements. To earn a CD in ELA and/or mathematics, a student must reach a performance level of Proficient or Advanced. Students who score in a performance level of Needs Improvement in ELA and/or mathematics must also fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP), which is an individualized intervention plan that includes additional coursework and an assessment component. (Please ask your child’s Head of School for further information about EPP.) To earn a CD in STE, a student must pass one of the MCAS high school science tests (biology, physics, chemistry, or technology/engineering).

    Students who do not pass high school MCAS the first time may retake it even after they leave high school. If a student has taken the tests at least three times or has participated in the MCAS Alternate Assessment twice and has not yet passed the ELA and/or math test, the student may be eligible to file an MCAS Performance Appeal for ELA and/or mathematics. To be eligible to file an MCAS Performance Appeal for science, a student must have taken an MCAS high school science test at least one time (or completed an MCAS Alternate Assessment) and must be currently enrolled in a science class or have completed grade 12. For a description of the process and eligibility requirements, visit the BPS website. Check with the school Head of School to see if your child is eligible to have an appeal filed with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education.