After much anticipation, Massachusetts on Wednesday plans to release results from the new version of the MCAS for grades 3-8, which students took for the first time last spring. The state will also announce the scores for the 10th-graders, who took the old version of the MCAS.
The two sets of data from different tests could cause a lot of head-scratching among parents and other longterm observers of the tests.
Here are some key points to keep in mind when reviewing Wednesday’s results:
1. New testing lingo. State officials and local schools often refer to the new MCAS as the “Next Generation MCAS” and the old MCAS that 10th-graders continue to take as the “legacy MCAS.”
2. New scoring categories. Student performance in grades 3-8 will be rated as exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, partially meeting expectations, and not meeting expectations. The state changed the names to give a stronger signal of what students can do.
3. Old scoring categories. Tenth-graders will still be rated as advanced, proficient, needs improvement, and failing on the old version of the MCAS for the next two years. In the spring of 2019, 10th-graders should finally sit down for the first time to take a revamped MCAS that aligns with grades 3-8, which means they will do much of their testing online and will be rated under the new scoring categories.
4. Online testing. Under the new MCAS, the state is encouraging as many schools as possible to do all testing online in grades 3-8. About 60 percent of students in those grades took the exams on a computer in the spring.
5. A digital divide. Look for any discussion among state officials about whether students who took the online version were at an advantage or disadvantage. For instance, were there any technical glitches during the exam? State officials say the online testing went smoothly and only received reports of isolated issues. Check with your school about any technical problems — especially if your children’s scores don’t seem to match up with their report cards — and what other kinds of tests students might be taking online, which can help make that king of testing more routine for them instead of just an MCAS-only event.
6. Other potential complications. It can take time for schools to fully adjust their curriculums to make sure they are covering everything that will be tested. This will be the first opportunity for schools to review the results and identify any possible gaps in instruction, which could be the case if many students were incorrectly answering the same questions. Schools went through these same kinds of growing pains when the MCAS was originally introduced in the late 1990s, and eventually scores in most cases improved.James Vaznis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.