Text of letter robo-emailed to 10thgrade students and their parents/guardians
April 9, 2019
Dear 10thgraders and families,
Last week, the Department of Early and Secondary Education contacted superintendents and district leaders to tell them about reactions to one of the writing assignments that had been part of the ELA 10 MCAS exam.
While no specifics regarding the essay prompt or related text were supplied, DESE went onto say that test administrators reported that students had encountered material that they thought affected their ability to be tested fairly. DESE responded by noting “(it) has a thorough process for vetting test questions that includes review by educators, review by a committee that looks at possible biases, and field tests of all questions before they are used toward students’ scores. However, out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of student fairness, we have decided not to use the results from this particular question as part of students’ scores. Students who have already answered the question will not have it scored, and students who take the makeup test this week will be instructed not to answer that question.” (letter 3/31/19)
In a follow-up memo dated 4/1/19, test administrators were instructed to ask students making up MCAS sessions to refrain from replying to a specific question. This directive was irrelevant for Mount Greylock as our anticipated make-up sessions were completed by 3/27/19.
Later in the week in its Friday newsletter, the Commissioner published a statement to explain how the MCAS would be scored but without detail regarding the substance of the problematic passage.
The Department heard from Boston Public Schools administrators on Friday, March 29, that some students had raised concerns about an essay prompt that was near the end of the 10thgrade English language arts MCAS test. On Sunday, March 31, I decided that we would not score the item, and we asked districts to instruct students who were taking makeup tests not to answer the question. The test will still have a similar ratio of writing to other content as in past years, even with this essay question removed.
We have a strong item review process, but this question got through. We take responsibility for it and will learn from this. We hope to hear directly from students after testing is done. We are continuing to review all the information related to this issue to determine how we can improve the process in the future.
(Commissioner’s Weekly Update 4/5/19)
On Sunday, 4/7/19, I learned more specifics about the test prompt through the English Curriculum Leader who shared various articles, including this one from the Boston Globe. For a sense of the local impact, consider reading a thorough article published in Mount Greylock’s Echo.
At this point, Mount Greylock knows that DESE will recalibrate the scoring of the ELA 10 MCAS exam and not count points earned on the essay in question. However, if DESE communicates any more information regarding scoring or treatment of the ELA 10 MCAS, I will be sure to share it with you. If you have any questions, please contact me.