Note: All indented texts are direct quotes from Mass DOE documents, screen shots are from their documents. Most are referenced twice, once as a link to their site, and once to a copy on this site, just in case something changes or moves in the future. Any text rendered in red is their text with my emphasis. Sometimes we are both emphasizing the same thing!

What exactly does the Commonwealth claim the MCAS-Alt is?

The Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks never mentions "disabled" or "special needs" students. The Frameworks is what all students are taught with. Every student in the Commonwealth is held to this standard. This FAQ statement clearly says that the MCAS-Alt student, including the most severely disabled, is tested against the "Curriculum Frameworks."

Q. Why assess students with disabilities on the alternate assessment?
A. First, it's the law. Students with disabilities must participate in MCAS in order to assess their performance of skills and knowledge of content found in the state's Curriculum Frameworks. This means students with disabilities must take MCAS tests, either with or without accommodations, or take an alternate assessment if they cannot take the standard tests due to the severity of their disability.  (reference on MAS DOE site)(screen shot)

This is from an open letter to teachers from the Commissioner of Education and is the introduction to the 2008 Educator's Manual for MCAS-Alt. What is not clear?

Commissioner’s Foreword
Dear Colleagues:

I am pleased to present you with the 2008 Educator’s Manual for MCAS-Alt. Educators should follow these guidelines and instructions to prepare alternate assessment portfolios for submission to the Department of Education. As is true of standard MCAS tests, the purpose of the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt) is to assess the achievement of students in relation to knowledge and skills specified in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

Alternate assessments measure the educational performance of the small number of students who are unable to take standard MCAS tests due to the complexity and severity of their disabilities. These students participate in MCAS through the alternate assessment portfolio, which in accordance with the law, must be compiled and submitted in the same content areas and grades as those in which standard MCAS tests are administered.
Thank you for assisting the Department in administering this vital component of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

Jeffrey Nellhaus
Acting Commissioner of Education
Forward in 2008 Educator's Manual for MCAS-Alt (on MASS DOE site) (copy on this site)

MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt) Overview

A. Background

The MCAS-Alt consists of a portfolio of “evidence” collected during the school year to document a student’s performance of the skills, knowledge, and concepts outlined in the state’s Curriculum Frameworks. Alternate assessments allow the Massachusetts Department of Education to report results to parents, schools, and the public on the academic performance of all students with disabilities, and to assist schools in developing challenging programs of instruction for students with significant disabilities.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997 first required that students with disabilities be provided the opportunity to participate in and make progress in the general education curriculum. The No Child Left Behind law and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 reinforced that all Massachusetts students, even those with significant disabilities, must receive instruction that is aligned with the skills, concepts, and knowledge supported by the learning standards in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
2008 Educator's Manual for MCAS-Alt, page 10 (on MASS DOE site) (copy on this site)

Now the pièce de résistance, the very core of the issue ...

From the Massachusetts Department of Education, Fall 2007 publication 2008 Educator's Manual for MCAS-Alt, page 11:

D. Requirements for 2008 MCAS-Alt Portfolios

The No Child Left Behind law requires the administration of statewide MCAS assessments (including alternate assessments) in ELA/reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and in grade 10. Science and Technology/Engineering assessments are also required by law at least once in elementary, middle, and high school. At the high school level, MCAS and MCAS-Alt will assess Science and Technology/Engineering in specific disciplines (either Biology, Introductory Physics, Chemistry, or Technology/Engineering) either in grade 9 or 10. These requirements will allow for the documentation of each student’s academic performance and progress, and will ensure that students with significant disabilities are receiving instruction in important areas of the curriculum.

READ THAT AGAIN! Federal law (NCLB) "requires" ELA/reading, mathematics, Science and Technology/Engineering assessments in the MCAS-Alt. Period. REQUIRED by law. Federal law. Required of children who cannot talk, cannot communicate, cannot point, cannot show any intent to do anything. THEY MUST BE TESTED in the sciences, etc. So, how do we do this? Let's see.

There are many other places where it is said, clearly, that the MCAS-Alt tests the student against the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. Period. Clear as a bell. A school bell, if you like.

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