Data and Assessment in the Newton Public Schools

  • Teaching and learning in the Newton Public Schools is assessed using national, state and local instruments.  Since 1998, student progress has been measured, in part, using the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).  In Spring 2015, elementary and middle school students were assessed in English Language Arts and Mathematics using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment, PARCC, for the first of two years.  This assessment was developed specifically to assess the Common Core State Standards, adopted by Massachusetts in 2011 as our curriculum frameworks for English Language Arts and Mathematics. 

    In the spring of 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MA DESE) determined that future testing would be done with a new version of MCAS- now known as Next-Generation MCAS.  MCAS was  the state’s assessment instrument for science in all tested grades (5th, 8th and 9th) through 2019.  High School students will be assessed with the Next Generation MCAS beginning in 2020. 

    In addition to MCAS, Newton Public Schools assesses students more frequently using a variety of other assessments chosen for particular purposes.  These assessments are either formative or summative.  


  • As part of regular classroom instruction, teachers assess student skills and understanding of daily lessons to determine next instructional steps.  These informal assessments are used to determine student needs for additional instruction - either more challenging materials or more instruction on particular skills or concepts. 

    In our elementary schools, as part of our Tiered Instruction and Intervention program, teachers administer universal screenings several times a year to ensure that students have mastery of key skills and concepts in reading and mathematics.  Students whose results indicate a gap in receive additional, more intensive, instruction in the identified skill or concept.  

    Newton Public Schools' formative assessments of student reading proficiency are good predictors of MCAS performance.


    Summative Assessments

    Summative assessments are routinely used in secondary schools to determine the extent to which students have learned the material they have been taught.  These assessments typically comprise a large part of a student’s grade in a course.  

    Elementary students do not receive grades in the same way, but student proficiency is measured in a variety of ways to report progress and achievement to families and be sure that each student continues to make progress. 

    Summative assessment data, including MCAS results, have provided Newton Public Schools with information to guide curriculum renovation, instructional improvement, and professional development. Data from cumulative years of testing have been examined to identify long-term trends and to inform large-scale curricular and instructional initiatives.




    Formative assessments are in-process evaluations of student learning that are typically administered multiple times during a unit, course, or academic program. The general purpose of formative assessment is to give educators real-time feedback about what students are learning or not learning so that instructional approaches, teaching materials, and academic support can be modified accordingly. …

    Summative assessments are used to evaluate student learning at the conclusion of a specific instructional period—typically at the end of a unit, course, semester, program, or school year. Summative assessments are graded tests, assignments, or projects that are used to determine whether students have learned what they were expected to learn during the defined instructional period.

    The Glossary of Education Reform