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Will Massachusetts Use PARCC, But Not the PARCC Test, Next Year?

After months of weighing whether to use the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test or its previous state exam next year, Massachusetts K-12 officials now might consider a third choice: using the state's work in the PARCC assessment consortium to create a new state exam.

As we reported earlier this year, for the 2014-15 school year, Massachusetts allowed districts to decide whether to give the PARCC exam or its predecessor, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS. (The Bay State is the only state in the country to have this arrangement with respect to state tests.) Just over half of districts chose to use the PARCC exam, but the state hasn't made the official call as to whether to proceed with PARCC or MCAS for 2015-16—both exams are aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The state school board is scheduled to pick a test at its Nov. 17 meeting.

State K-12 ADDED--MB Commissioner Mitchell Chester, who is chairman of PARCC's governing board, is due to make a recommendation to the board about which test to pick. But earlier this week, he presented a third option to state leaders. Chester suggested that the state could choose to create a new MCAS, one which draws on assessment work Massachusetts has been a part of through PARCC. 

"The question in my mind," Chester said, according to WBUR radio on Oct. 20, "is to what extent can we take advantage of the development that's been done in PARCC to take us down that road of a next-generation assessment?"

Laura Slover, the CEO of Parcc Inc., the nonprofit group that manages PARCC, said that using elements of PARCC to create what Chester called "MCAS 2.0" is possible, but could be costly and time-intensive. 

Massachusetts isn't the only state to consider some sort of hybrid approach when it comes to PARCC. Louisiana is exploring creating a new assessment next year that would incorporate elements of PARCC, although after extensive political negotiations, Louisiana is requiring that questions from  PARCC can only make up a minority of the total content of the common-core test it will give next year. (The Pelican State gave the PARCC exam in 2014-15.)

Massachusetts released PARCC as well as MCAS scores on Tuesday. In grades 3-8 combined, 60 percent of students met expectations on PARCC in English/language arts, and 52 percent of students did so in math. The state education department released a table of PARCC results including other tests below, although far more districts used the test for grades 3-8 than PARCC high school exams:

MassPARCC.PNG


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