• MCAS Performance Appeals: A Guide for BPS Students, Parents/Guardians, and Staff

    High school students who meet certain criteria may be eligible for an English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics, and/or Science and Technology / Engineering (STE) MCAS Performance Appeal.

    The appeals process established by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MA DESE) provides eligible high school students who have been unable to pass the required MCAS tests with an additional opportunity to demonstrate through their course work that they meet or exceed the state's Competency Determination (CD) standard in order to earn a diploma.

    For an MCAS Appeal to be granted, a student must meet two sets of criteria:

    FIRST, to be eligible for an MCAS Appeal, a student must:

    • FOR ELA, have taken the Grade 10 MCAS ELA test at least 3 times (or an MCAS Alternate Assessment twice);  
    • FOR Mathematics, have taken the Grade 10 MCAS Math test at least 3 times (or an MCAS Alternate Assessment twice);
    • FOR Science (STE), have taken the MCAS high school STE test (or an MCAS Alternate Assessment) at least once and is currently enrolled in a high school STE course or has completed grade 12. The appeal must be in the same STE discipline as the STE MCAS test taken by the student; 
    • have at least 95% attendance in this school year and the previous school year (e.g., no more than 9 days absent from school during a 180-day school year); AND
    • have participated in school-sponsored tutoring or other academic support services in the subject area of the appeal.

    The State Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education has the authority to waive any of these eligibility requirements, if there are extenuating circumstances such as serious illness, childcare commitments, hardship, or disability.

    SECOND, BPS must show that the student has demonstrated academic performance through their coursework, at or above the Competency Determination passing level on the grade 10 or high school MCAS test in the subject of appeal.

    Types of Appeals

    A cohort appeal is based on a comparison of the grade point average (GPA) and MCAS scores of a student for whom the appeal is filed and those of at least 6 other students in the school who were enrolled in the same courses at the same time as the student in the subject of the appeal. 

    A transcript appeal is intended only for students who transfer into BPS in mid-March or later of their senior year (i.e., after the MCAS retest in that subject has been administered). In these cases, the student’s transcript, GPA, standardized test scores (e.g., SAT, ACT, if available), college acceptance letters, and other relevant academic evidence are submitted to the MA DESE to demonstrate that the student has the equivalent knowledge and skills to a student who has earned the MCAS score required to earn a CD. Students who transfer into BPS between September and March of their senior year must participate at least once in the MCAS retest and/or February Biology or June high school Science test before an appeal will be considered.

    The portfolio appeal must include specific student work samples collected/created in high school that attempt to demonstrate that the appellant meets a comparable level of academic performance at or above the Competency Determination passing level on the grade 10 or high school MCAS test in the subject of appeal.

    If a high school student in an active military family moves from another state and enrolls in BPS in grade 11 or later, the district may, in lieu of having the student participate in MCAS retests, submit to the MA DESE alternative evidence or information that demonstrates that the student has met the Massachusetts CD graduation standard in the required content areas—ELA, Mathematics, and Science.

    MCAS Appeals may be submitted for the same student in ELA, Mathematics, and Science but a separate application must be completed in each subject area.

    Application Timelines and Procedures

    Cohort and transcript appeals as well as appeals for high school students in military families are reviewed monthly during the school year (October through June) by the MA DESE.  To meet the MA DESE’s schedule, schools should submit appeals to the BPS Office of Data & Accountability a month prior to the MA DESE review.

    Portfolio appeals are reviewed three times a year (November, May, and July).

    Applications that meet the eligibility requirements are reviewed by the state's MCAS Performance Appeals Board. The MCAS Appeals Board consists of a panel of educators who meet monthly during the school year to review appeals and make recommendations to the Commissioner about the outcome of each appeal.

    Generally, the MA DESE rules on each appeal (granted, denied, or no determination / insufficient evidence) prior to the end of the month that the appeal was submitted to the state.

    ELA and Math appeals that are not granted may be re-submitted if new information arises (such as higher grades, improved attendance, etc.) to strengthen the application. Please note that in order to be eligible for a subsequent appeal in cases where a Science appeal was denied, the student must take another high school MCAS Science (STE) test in either the same or a different discipline (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Technology/Engineering).

    For more information:
    Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
    Boston Public Schools
    Office of Data & Accountability

    MCAS Appeals Photo