Students at publicly funded special education schools like Dearborn Academy participate in mandatory state testing.
We prepare students for the MCAS by teaching them the same skills and content that they would learn in public school – with specialized instruction and accommodations as appropriate to achieve success. In addition to challenging students academically, at Dearborn Academy we provide direct instruction to teach test-taking strategies and help students fill in gaps where they are missing skills or content knowledge.
The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS)* is designed to meet the requirements of the Education Reform Law of 1993. This law specifies that the testing program must:
- test all public school students in Massachusetts, including students with disabilities and limited English proficient
- measure performance based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework learning standards;
- report on the performance of individual students, schools, and districts.
All publicly funded students from Massachusetts who attend Dearborn participate in all MCAS tests scheduled for their grades by taking the standard MCAS tests with or without accommodation. A student’s IEP team determines how a student with a disability will participate in MCAS and documents this information in the plan.
At Dearborn, in addition to being taught how to take such tests, students are given special preparation and encouragement around MCAS testing. Any kind of testing can be quite challenging for our students so we approach MCAS with empathy and understanding for their frustrations. Snacks are given out during testing sessions and regular academic workloads are often lessened on testing days to account for the added pressure of the MCAS.
The law allows for accommodations to be made to assist students with particular learning challenges to demonstrate their grasp of the material. The common accommodations that students in our program have during the test are:
- familiar administrator
- the use of graphic organizers
- frequent breaks
- monitoring, tracking, and the clarification of the directions
Students must earn a passing score on the MCAS tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, and one of the Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) tests (Biology, Chemistry, Introductory Physics, and Technology/Engineering) to meet their Competency Determination requirement, required for a high school diploma.
Test scores are documented and reported to the student’s parents and sending district. Each year of testing is a crucial practice year for the eventual high-stakes testing in the 10th grade.