MCAS Taken Online Schoolwide

Will Bavier, Contributing Writer

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) is a statewide standardized test used by school districts and teachers to identify areas where students need more help, refine lesson plans, and even select different curriculum resources to help students reach higher expectations. This upcoming year of 2019 brings some changes to the traditional pen-and-paper style of the MCAS, requiring that students take it online. To make the transition as seamless as possible, the Department is still making paper-based versions available during the transition period and will offer them on an ongoing basis as an accommodation for some students.

For CRLS, however, this transition will not be as dramatic, considering the increase in standard-issue Chromebooks given out to students since the fall of 2017. Even though the changes to the testing method are anything but minimal, CRLS seems to have a generally welcoming stance.

Sophomore Simeon Lichtenstein thinks that the MCAS will have generally positive benefits. “I think it could have a positive effect on people who have sub-par handwriting so it is easier for them to type. Also, it would be easier to edit your paper.” He also goes on to say that the use of computers may make the MCAS less complicated. “It will be easier for the teachers to give the tests, because the students only need their computer … no need to fiddle with paper and people forgetting pencils, et cetera.” It seems that although the transition period may be shaky, the students are willing to give it a try.
Another student, freshman Mike Benoit-Latour, gives some interesting pros and cons on the alternate method of testing. “I think it could have stayed the same way it used to be, but some students do enjoy online testing more, and there’ll be no more hassle with pencils and people accidentally answering wrong questions on the answer sheets, so why not?” He then explains possible problems that may occur in the testing environment. “It’ll be easier if we’re talking materials, but it’ll be harder to control what the kids are doing on their computers unless that’s monitored really closely. Overall, I’m neutral; I didn’t love the old way, and I’m sure the goals for the MCAS will be accomplished either way.”

Brahim Khiraoui is a teacher at CRLS who is in favor of the online MCAS. “Given that most of our students had access to computer and technology at early age, the change to online testing is becoming necessary. I also think it will be easier for some teachers, especially those who feel comfortable with technology.” Even though any change can be difficult in the beginning, it is necessary to change standard methods as we normalize the use of electronics in education, according to Mr. Khiraoui.

Chemistry teacher Adelaide Porreca, although uncertain about the possible benefits of the change, is hoping that the switch from traditional paper tests to online tests will benefit all students. “Our goal should always be to work towards equity and improvement for all of our students, which means that we need to dedicate the necessary time to ensuring that students understand and can access these online exams. I am always in favor of amending processes if it means students will benefit, but I won’t know for sure until I see the results after this year and make some comparisons.”

Massachusetts can’t be sure that modernizing the MCAS will provide positive benefits—despite this, the students and teachers of CRLS seem more than ready to give it a try.


This piece also appears in our March 2019 print edition.