By Les Masterson
James W. Hennigan Elementary School, Curley K-8 School, Match Charter Public Middle School and the Boston Teachers Union School in Jamaica Plain will take the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests as part of a test group this spring.
State education officials are testing whether to replace the MCAS test with the PARCC. Massachusetts is one of 18 states that has been working to develop PARCC. More than 1.35 million students from 14 states will take PARCC field tests in English language arts or mathematics this spring.
About 81,000 Massachusetts students (approximately 8 percent of the state’s total public school enrollment) will take a PARCC field test.
James W. Hennigan Elementary School and Curley K-8 School will take the online test, while Match Charter Public Middle School and the Boston Teachers Union School will take the paper test.
The state Department of Education and Secondary Education said the PARCC “has the potential to deliver clearer signals to schools, colleges, employers, and parents about what students know and can do and whether they are on the pathway to success after high school.”
Education officials will have a two-year “try out” to determine whether the PARCC “can better serve the Commonwealth's goal of ensuring that all students have the academic preparation necessary to successfully pursue higher education, careers, and citizenship” than the MCAS.
The state has been working with participating schools since September to choose a representative sample of students from a few classes at each school to take the field test. The students who take the field test will not receive a score or grade.
"The academic learning standards we adopted in 2010 are strong, comprehensive, and academically demanding, and we need an equally strong assessment aligned to those standards," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester, who is chair of the PARCC Governing Board. "PARCC promises to provide more accurate measures of the skills that are keys to success after high school. The two-year pilot of PARCC will allow us to build the best test we can and better evaluate whether PARCC could replace our current testing program."
Though Massachusetts students lead the nation in academy performance, state education officials said “challenges remain to ensures that all students are successful.”
“Nearly 40 percent of public high school students in Massachusetts who enroll in one of the states' public higher education campuses are placed in one or more non-credit bearing, remedial courses. In 2010, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to adopt new learning standards that capitalized on feedback from employers and higher education about where our students were often lacking in terms of their literacy and mathematical skills,” according to the state Department of Education and Secondary Education.
State education officials said the MCAS, which started in 1998, has not been upgraded and “was never designed to access college and career readiness.”
The PARCC, on the other hand, is “aligned to the Commonwealth’s new learning standards, will deliver innovative technology-based items and performance-based tasks to better measure students' abilities to think critically and apply what they know. PARCC will assess writing at all tested grades (3-11), rather than just in grades 4, 7, and 10, which is the case for MCAS. PARCC will produce more timely results for school districts to assist educators in planning and tailoring instruction for students in the coming school year,” according to the state.
After this year’s field test, school districts will have the option of administering the PARCC or MCAS to students in grades 3-11 in 2014-15. Grade 10 students will still need to pass the MCAS test in English language arts and mathematics to receive a high school diploma through the Class of 2018.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to vote in fall 2015 whether to replace the MCAS with PARCC in England language arts and mathematics.