MCAS Exams Now Online

Meaghan Meagher, Staff Writer

Spring rolls around, and MCAS testing starts up again. MCAS, (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System), is a standards-based assessment that began in 1993. But this year all eighth grade and sophomores will be the taking math and English tests on computers.

In previous years, students have taken MCAS using the traditional pencil and paper method. This year, MCAS will introduce its first online testing format for students statewide.

“This year marks the first year of grade 10 MCAS 2.0. The test now reflects more challenging reading and synthesis of core skills in ELA. It also asks students to compare two pieces of work in some sections, which is change,” said Mary Ellen Janeiro, English curriculum coordinator of grades 6-12.

MCAS is a timed test, so students do have a limited amount of time for each section in the test. Teachers have introduced testing on the computers to students at Barnstable High School already. They wanted to get the students prepared for more testing on computers in the future.

“While change can be a challenge, the online component creates a testing environment that is similar to exams that students will take later in their high school, college, and potentially during their careers should they find themselves employed in a job that requires licensing,” said Janeiro.

On the other hand, students have mixed reactions to the computer testing. Some students do find it much easier to have their test on paper because they might like the format of the reading passages better. Sophomore Savanna Thomas prefers paper testing over online because it is “much easier to look over your work” and she feels that having “everything in front of you physically is much easier than flipping pages on a screen.”

For MCAS testing students have a booklet that you can flip through, and you can refer to the passage, back and forth. But if you’re taking the test online, there’s a screen and a scrollbar and you have to manipulate the scrollbar. For some it may be more difficult to flip between passages or refer to the passage when you’re reading the questions. BHS English teacher Meghan Fligg said that students will need to use their time wisely when taking the MCAS.

“They [students] will need patience to navigate the computer formatting, they will need diligence to thoroughly read each component of the exam and go back when necessary,” Fligg said.

Laura Rosenfield, Assessment Coordinator of grades 6-12, said that teachers are now starting to give students online tests as young as third grade. Rosenfield said “starting in third grade will let younger students grow up doing online testing, and it will help students know how to do it better in the future.”

Teachers are trying to help students get used to online testing before getting to the high school, so they know how to work all of the gadgets on the MCAS in advance. Fligg has realized how big of a switch it is not only from paper to online but that the format of the test will be changed also. It is a different style of MCAS, and because of it teachers will have to teach how to properly use it.

“A good deal of work is going to have to go into teaching students how to switch their style based on the varied prompts they will be given,” Fligg said.

Teachers have seen their students results of testing with pencil and paper compared to testing on a computers. Teachers want to prepare their students for the future. They know their students very well when it comes to testing, they know the students’ strengths and weaknesses for tests also. They know if their students find it much more difficult to test on the computers rather than on paper from computer tests they have taken in the past.

BHS English teacher Fligg said she noticed an increase trend in students struggling to type on a keyboard. Fligg also says that students are going to have to try to do well on this exam due to the youth being programmed to their phones, they might lack the basic motor skills when it comes to properly using a keyboard.