The MCAS Transition is an issue close to all of us. Please take a look at this information from our Assessment folks here at DESE. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any other questions!
Regarding MCAS Changes in Grades 4 and 7 in Writing
Students taking the Composition assessment will NOT be writing in response to text on the 2013 or 2014 ELA Composition assessment. (It’s true that the previous transition chart said they would be. But that is not the case.) It remains the case that students at grades 4 and grade 7 may be asked to respond to any of the modes (narrative, expository, or opinion/persuasive) listed in the new framework, and that we are not identifying that mode in advance of the Composition assessment. (More on that below.)
Please note that the Grade 10 Composition assessment will continue to focus on literary analysis.
The testing experience for students taking ELA MCAS will be very similar in 2013 and 2014 to what it’s been in years previous. The shifts, to the extent that they will be manifest on MCAS, will be virtually imperceptible to most students—as teachers will be able to see when we release the 2013 test items.
This is not to say that the new standards won’t change anything at all in ELA. In keeping with the emphasis of the new framework on the importance of exposing students to informational texts across all grade levels—and to fostering literacy explicitly in Science and History/Social Science—the character of what were formerly viewed as “non-fiction” passages will be tend to become more “informational” over the course of this transition period.
Our Reading Comprehension assessments will continue to test students’ comprehension through items that assess explicit comprehension and inference-making; recognition of author’s purposes and craft/technique (in grade level appropriate ways); vocabulary and conventions (in grade level appropriate ways), and require students to support answers on open-response items with support drawn from the passage. This is what we’ve always done.
At Grades 4, 7, and 10, as you know, students are also be required to take the MCAS Composition assessment (i.e., “long comp”). We have posted an updated transition chart for ELA here. It contains information about the changes we’re making in keeping with the new framework. Please note that nothing about the Grade 10 test will be changing. As the competency determination assessment, that test is remaining as it’s been since the program’s inception, and the Grade 10 Composition will continue to assess literary analysis.
At Grades 4 & 7, as the transition chart notes, we are maintaining the position than the writing prompt may involve any of the three modes of writing listed in the new standards. The Department will not be posting sample prompts or student work beyond what’s already on the website from previous years. The scoring guides and the scoring process will remain the same.
Whether the mode is being assessed narrative, expository, or opinion (at G4)/persuasive (at G7), the expectation will remain that students will develop responses based on the own views and experiences. Scoring will remain focused on 1) how well they develop their ideas (i.e., topic development) and 2) the command of conventions they demonstrate in their writing (i.e., English conventions). Students will not be scored on how well they “write to the mode.” No additional criteria will be added to scoring process.
The overarching point here, as noted generally, is that the students’ writing experience this year will be vastly more similar to than different from the experiences of students in previous years.
We have followed all of the established MCAS procedures in developing item and writing prompts for the 2013 and 2014 tests. All of our Composition prompts (like all of our other MCAS test items) have been reviewed and approved for use by the teachers on our grade level Assessment Development Committees; that is, they have been deemed by Massachusetts public school educators at that grade level to be prompts that students at that grade level will be able to respond to effectively. The prompts have also been field tested to validate those judgments. Again, this is in keeping with long-established MCAS development procedures.