MCAS: Juniors’ Opinions on Optional Testing


A snapshot of a standardized testing scantron, much like those utilized for MCAS testing.

Delaney Coppola, Contributing Writer

With the final stretch of the 2020-2021 school year in sight, many students are itching for the freedom of summer break. For some juniors, however, the work is not quite done. 

While usually a graduation requirement, the 10th grade Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) was cancelled last spring in the midst of the lockdown, lurching the Class of 2022 into a further state of uncertainty. With gradual reopenings occurring this year, emails from the school administration revealed that “Statewide, students in the Class of 2022 will not require a passing score on the MCAS exams in order to earn a high school diploma. However, your participation will enable you to compete for scholarships and awards, including the Adams Scholarship, the Koplik Certificate of Mastery, and the Seal of Biliteracy.” This development presented the Class of 2022, the current juniors, with an important choice concerning MCAS testing in the week of June 1 through June 4.

Many of the juniors prioritized MCAS because of its involvement in the Seal of Biliteracy. A valuable recognition to achieve, the Seal of Biliteracy is awarded for high scores on the MCAS assessment in conjunction with high performance on a foreign language exam to demonstrate proficiency. Although a separate test exists to obtain the Seal, passing MCAS appears to be the most popular and straightforward method. Junior Ellie Boles reflects on her decision to participate in the English Language Arts MCAS stating, “I am taking the English MCAS for the sole reason of getting the Seal of Biliteracy. I wish that I didn’t have to take it because missing school and having to do makeup work is stressful and given the circumstances of this year things already feel overwhelming.” 

Junior Anthony Longo shares a similar sentiment explaining, “I’m taking MCAS this week to try and get the Seal of Biliteracy from passing the English section. I’m not sure if I have to take both English and Math or if I can just do English, but I‘ll probably end up doing both. I wish it didn’t take up the whole week, but I’m glad it’s optional.” An opinion echoed by many students, Boles and Longo bring up another facet of opting into the testing: the makeup work and missed classes. Accompanied with the SAT, ACT, and/or AP testing many juniors have completed this year, the MCAS testing creates additional stress and students must take careful consideration of the classes they will miss during the exam.  

The optional nature of the test, however, allowed students to opt into both math and English, just one subject, or neither. Junior Tyler O’Connor reveals her appreciation for this flexibility describing, “I like that MCAS is optional for juniors this year because this way I can choose to take just the English section, and hopefully in the future get the Seal of Biliteracy.” For students mainly focused on the Seal of Biliteracy aspect of the test, the ability to only take one subject minimizes the missed classes and amount of makeup work, while allowing students to achieve their goals.

Other students have chosen not to participate in the testing at all. Junior Caroline Bastardi shares her reasoning explaining, “I chose not to take MCAS this year because I have taken it so many other times, and it wouldn’t benefit me. I like how we have the option to not take it because I find it pretty useless.” In this case, students who are not reliant on MCAS for the Seal or other scholarships can avoid excess testing and continue through the rest of their junior year without interruption. The personal choice aspect of this year’s test allowed the Class of 2022 the liberty to adapt the MCAS to best suit their needs, an unusual concept in the realm of standardized testing. 

With less than a month until the last day of school, much remains to be done at HHS. Whether you are participating in MCAS this upcoming week or continuing with your classes, best of luck and keep on powering through!