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Massachusetts Chief Recommends Hybrid State/PARCC Testing Approach

Massachusetts' education commissioner recommended Thursday that the state's public school students take a hybrid test in 2017 that would include material from both the state's own assessment and one aligned to the common-core standards.  

Commissioner Mitchell Chester's recommendation is an attempt to strike a middle ground between advocates who want to keep MCAS, the 17-year-old state standardized test, and those who want to fully implement the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exam written by a consortium of states based on the Common Core State Standards. The state's board of education is set to vote on whether to approve Chester's recommendation on Nov. 17.

At least five states have dropped PARCC in recent years because politicians felt it was too closely aligned with the common-core standards instead of homegrown standards. Just eight states now are administering PARCC, according to a recent survey conducted by the Education Commission of the States.

Massachusetts was part of the original consortium of states that created PARCC and has administered the test for the past two years, though just half of its students participated last spring. 

Under Chester's recommendation, districts that administered the PARCC test in 2015 would do so again this school year. Districts that administered the state's MCAS standardized test could administer a slightly altered version that would include some PARCC items. That would allow the state to more-easily compare districts' performance, Chester said.  

In the spring of 2017, he recommends, the state would roll out a "next-generation" test to all of its districts that combines both PARCC and MCAS items.  

"The approach I have recommended lets us continue to benefit from the high-quality, next generation PARCC assessment in which we've invested a great deal of time and effort," Chester said in a news release. "But it also ensures that the assessment will reflect the commonwealth's unique needs and concerns." 

The Pioneer Institute, a think tank that's detested the common-core standards, lauded Chester's proposal, but encouraged him to keep the MCAS intact. 

"The five-year Common Core-PARCC detour needs to be abandoned," a press release from the organization said. "It has damaged the standing of the Commonwealth's students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and undermined the academic quality needed to perpetuate the ideals of our democracy, deliver true equity to underserved students, and compete in the global economy."

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