Importing MCAS Long Comp Files

logo_mcasEvery summer, the MCAS Service Center provides the student long compositions (what the students actually wrote!) as PDF files (grades 4, 7, and 10). However, these documents don’t always make it into the hands of teachers and administrators for analysis and review. Only administrators have access to the MCAS Service Center, and downloading the files and making them available to teachers in an organized way has not been easy. Loading these files into the Documents side tab of the student record in Aspen provides a history of a student’s writing, and makes the documents easily accessible to the educators who work with that student. Keep reading to see how you can load these files into your district’s Aspen database.

In order to complete this process, you will need the following:

  1. The district MCAS “megafile”
  2. The long composition PDF files from the MCAS Service Center
  3. Two imports from the AspenInsideOut wiki (and the Data Dictionary setup that goes with them)

Trim the MCAS “Megafile”

The district MCAS “megafile” is a CSV file which is available in the MCAS Dropbox in the DESE Security Portal. The filename contains the district code.

Download the megafile and open it in Excel. You will need to create a smaller CSV file from it that contains just two columns: SASID (Column J) and bookletnumberela (Column IN). Column headers are not necessary. After saving the trimmed version you may want to open your file in a text editor to ensure it is in the correct format (comma-delimited, no quotes).

Download the Long Composition PDF Files

You can download the long composition PDF files from the MCAS Service Center:

    • Go to > MCAS > MCAS Reporting
    • Log in using the district-level MCAS Service Center username and password (updated each year in a letter from DESE to district administrators)
    • Click the “MCAS Student Compositions” tab at the top of the page.
    • Use the “Basic Filtering Options” to specify year, administration, district, school, and test.
    • At the bottom of the page, change “Page size” to 100 to display the maximum list size.
    • Click the topmost checkbox to select all records on the first page.
    • Click “Download” to save the compositions into a ZIP file. You may want to append the school and grade level to the name of each file to keep track of the school/test.
    • If there are more than 100 compositions for a given school/test, you will need to download the files in multiple groups.

Import the Data

There are two imports in the AspenInsideOut wiki that you will use to import these files:

Download those bundles and import into Aspen.

Those imports rely on a couple of settings in your reference codes and your Data Dictionary. First you must define a user field on the Student table for “ELA Booklet Number” and give it an alias of “bookletNumber.” Be sure to reload the Data Dictionary!

Then add the following codes (or similar) to the Document Type Codes reference table:

  • MCAS Long Comp 10
  • MCAS Long Comp 7
  • MCAS Long Comp 4

Once that setup is complete you can import the data:

  1. Import the ELA Booklet Numbers to the student table (it will match on SASID) using the “MCAS Long Comp Booklet Numbers” import and the CSV file you created above.
  2. Import the long comp files using the “MCAS Long Comp Files” import and the ZIP file(s) you downloaded above. You’ll be prompted to choose a Document type, Document format and a Testing year for each ZIP file imported.

Imported files will be available from the Documents side tab of the student record and will be named according to the student name and the year selected in the import definition (e.g., “Smith, John 2014.pdf.”) If you wish to check the results of your import, you can go to Global > All > Documents and query where Type contains “MCAS Long Comp.”

IMPORTANT: You will want to clear out the ELA Booklet Number field each year, since it is possible that booklet numbers will be duplicated from year to year.

One thought on “Importing MCAS Long Comp Files

  1. Lynn Rowan

    Awesome idea that I never would have come up with on my own. I thought my MS principal was going to hug me when I told her! Thanks for making me look so good 🙂

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