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									Biology MCAS Review
               2011
 Ms. Stang, Canton High School
                           Agenda
 1. Purpose of MCAS
 2. Composition of the Biology MCAS
   Numbers and types of questions
   MCAS Development
 3. MCAS Scoring
 4. MCAS Preparation
 5. General test-taking advice
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                 Purpose of MCAS
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Purposes of the MCAS:
                 1. Provide feedback to students, families,
                  teachers, and schools on learning standards
                  going unmet.
                 2. Improve instruction.
                 3. Report on the performance of individual
                  students, schools, districts.
                 4. Evaluate progress on achieving equity.
                 5. Ensure that all students receiving a high
                  school diploma in Massachusetts have a base
                  level of knowledge.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                      Purpose of MCAS
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Unlike Mathematics and ELA, the Biology MCAS is
                still relatively young.
                  Class of 2010 was the first group that had to pass it to
                   graduate.
                  It has been slightly increasing in difficulty each year.
              Passing the Biology MCAS is a requirement that
                must be met in order to graduate with a high
                school diploma.
                  Those who do not pass must address this through
                    additional work: more on that later.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                            Composition of MCAS
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              The MCAS is broken down into two sessions,
                June 2nd and June 3rd.
                  Each session contains the same number of questions.
                  Students start first thing in the morning, and usually
                    about half are done by 9:45. There is no mid-morning
                    break.
                      Students may take longer than the scheduled session
                       time, but this isn’t recommended if you can avoid it.
                      Students should take the test at a reasonable pace. Rush
                       and you’ll make mistakes; dilly-dally and you won’t be as
                       sharp by the time you finally get to the end.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                           Composition of MCAS
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              The MCAS is broken down into two
                sessions, June 1st and June 2nd.
                  Each session contains the same number of
                    questions.


              The scored MCAS contains 40 multiple
                choice questions (20 each day), and 5
                open response questions (2-3 each day).
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                             Composition of MCAS
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice



              Rough multiple choice breakdown:
                    13% Biochemistry & Enzymes (mostly 1.2-1.3)
                    15% Cell Biology
                    17% Genetics
                    13% Anatomy
                    20% Evolution
                    20% Ecology (mostly 6.2-6.4)


              One essay from each of the topic areas except
                biochemistry.
                  The evolution essay is usually a natural selection
                     question. The anatomy essay is usually, but not
                     always, about the digestive system & homeostasis.
                     The ecology essay is usually about a food web.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                           Composition of MCAS
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Questions on the MCAS are constructed to
                determine if students understand the
                underlying concepts by asking them to
                apply their knowledge to new situations.
                  Questions will pose scenarios that students
                   need not have learned the specifics of,
                   intentionally.
                  “Blue jays and Kingbirds are both classified in
                   the order Passeriformes. In the current
                   taxonomic system, this means that both birds
                   belong to the same…”
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                           Composition of MCAS
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Students should expect to encounter
                situations that look unfamiliar, but
                really aren’t!
                  You don’t have to know what Kingbirds or
                    Passeriformes are, and the question authors
                    know that you don’t. They want to see if you
                    can go beyond just reciting “Domain Kingdom
                    Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species”
                    and use it to solve the problem.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                            Composition of MCAS
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice



              Each multiple choice question has one correct
                response and three “distractors.”
                  The distractors are deliberately chosen to contain
                   common misconceptions.
                  They are answers that someone who has not taken
                   biology might gravitate towards, or that someone who
                   has taken biology but isn’t paying attention might
                   gravitate towards.

                  Again, what the test writers are thinking is, “Did this
                    student learn what they were supposed to from their
                    Biology class?”
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                  Composition of MCAS
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice



              The MCAS will also contain “test-test items,”
                questions that will not count towards your
                score.
                  These are questions that the Department of Ed is
                   considering for a future Biology exam.
                  They determine if questions are too easy or too hard
                   by giving them to real students.
                      All the real questions on your test were constructed this
                           way.
                  These items will be indistinguishable from the actual
                    test items. They will be mixed in and unmarked.
                      So you will actually have more on the order of 60
                       multiple choice questions and 9 essays total.
                      Take every question seriously!
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                                       MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice



              Multiple choice: A correct answer gets 1 point, an
                incorrect answer gets 0 points.
                  No “guessing penalty.” Answer every question.
              Open response: Evaluated holistically.
                 Score of 0-4.
                      4 = The student demonstrates a thorough understanding of the
                           concept.
                          3 = The student demonstrates a general understanding of the
                           concept.
                          2 = The student demonstrates a limited understanding of the
                           concept.
                          1 = The student demonstrates a minimal understanding of the
                           concept.
                          0 = The question is unanswered, or the response lies far outside
                           the realm of the question.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                          MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice



              Not answering an open response question can
                result in failure of the test.


              Students have all day to take the exam if
                needed, there is no reason why any question -
                multiple choice or open response - should go
                unanswered.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                                MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice



              Open Response questions call for 1-2 complete paragraphs
               in response to each part of the question.
              Be sure to include:
                    Topic sentence
                    Answer
                    Explanation + Evidence
                    Connect Explanation + Evidence to Answer

              It’s the Explanation and Evidence that most students
                neglect. Students must remember, their job is to prove
                not just that they know, but that they understand.
                  Holistic score is improved by the inclusion of clear
                     evidence, by explaining concepts as they arise, and by
                     using appropriate science vocabulary.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                             MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice



              The MCAS website has sample student responses
                scanned in, as well as the scores they received.
                (Instructions on handout)
                  There’s no specific explanation of why this particular
                   essay for this particular score, but it should be
                   apparent.
                  A right answer only gets you 1 point, basically. The
                   other 3, you earn by competently explaining yourself.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                    MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Students receive a scaled score of 200-
                280, though there are 60 points possible
                on the test. 220-280 is considered
                passing for the student, but not
                necessarily for the teacher or school.
                 Failing = 200-219 (Roughly 0-20 pts)
                 Needs Improvement = 220-239 (21-30)
                 Proficient = 240-259 (31-47)
                 Advanced = 260-280 (48-60)
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                     MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              2008 Biology Results
                           CHS (%)      Statewide (%)
           Advanced        29           14
           Proficient      59           43
           Needs       12               31
           Improvement
           Failing     1                12
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                     MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              2009 Biology Results
                           CHS (%)      Statewide (%)
           Advanced        40           16
           Proficient      49           45
           Needs       9                29
           Improvement
           Failing     2                9
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                     MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              2010 Biology Results
                           CHS (%)      Statewide (%)
           Advanced        29           18
           Proficient      55           47
           Needs       15               28
           Improvement
           Failing     1                8
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                     MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Student results usually come out in
                early October.
                 Schoolwide results just report on
                  advanced, proficient, etc.
                 Individual results are more detailed.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                    MCAS Scoring
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Students who do not pass the MCAS then
                enter remediation, which generally
                includes taking MCAS Biology next year in
                addition to Chemistry, and then
                reattempting the MCAS in February
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                 MCAS Preparation
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Set aside at least 30 minutes a night for
               studying. Some ideas:
              1. Go through the standards with a
               parent, sibling, or friend. Questions are
               constructed to address each one.
                  If your student cannot perform the task the
                    standard calls for, then that’s an indication
                    of an area they should focus their reviewing
                    time on.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                            MCAS Preparation
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              2. Practice questions.
                Practice questions from previous years’
                 exams are on the DOE’s website, and
                 on Ms. Stang’s website as well.
                Take a practice exam. Any questions
                 you get wrong demonstrate areas for
                 you to review.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                               MCAS Preparation
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              3. Sit down with a parent, sibling,
                or study buddy, and examine the
                sample essays.
                 Discuss what it was about each essay
                    that elevated or lowered the score.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                              MCAS Preparation
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              4. Write practice open responses to
                the questions available.
                 Discuss with parent/sibling/study
                    buddy your probable score afterwards
                    by comparing your work to that of the
                    example students.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                   General Advice
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Of course, make sure you get a good
               night’s sleep the night before the
               exams. Shoot for 9 hours!
              And, eat a good, filling breakfast
               that morning.
                 No lie, it will save a question or two
                    for you that you would’ve missed
                    otherwise!
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                General Advice
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Timing will matter.
               Don’t rush, you’ll make mistakes.
               After about 11 AM, mental processing
                 drops off sharply. So a student who
                 daydreams and wastes time will wind
                 up having to take some questions after
                 that point and will get a lower score.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                  General Advice
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Leave your phone at home those
                days.
                 You’re instructed to turn phones off
                  and/or hand them in before beginning
                  the test, but it’s still a risk.
                 If you do NOT follow the cell phone
                  rules, and your phone rings or vibrates,
                  you may automatically fail your test.
                     DON’T BE THAT GUY
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                    General Advice
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              Employ the complete test-taking arsenal.
                 Skip the toughies for later.
                 Use the test against itself.
                 Eliminate answers.
                 Underline key terms.
                 Brain-dump.
                 Double-check at the end: all answered, all on
                  the right lines.
                 Etc.
1.   Purpose of MCAS
2.   Composition of MCAS
3.   MCAS Scoring

                                    General Advice
4.   MCAS Preparation
5.   General advice




              You have nothing to be scared of. Just
                be determined.
                  You have learned everything they need. You
                   can handle this hurdle, provided you’re
                   focused in both your preparation and your
                   test-taking strategies.
                  YOU ARE CAPABLE OF THIS :)
                         Review Sessions
 I’m available for review sessions until 2:30
  every day 5/23-5/27, and 5/31.
   I can be available later than that by request


 Helpful websites:
   http://stangbio.wikispaces.com/Bio+CP1+Units
   MCAS Info http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/
   MCAS Practice Questions
    http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/testitems.html
   MCAS Essays
    http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/student/

								
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