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Massachusetts Board Approves Hybrid PARCC, State Test

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday approved the state education commissioner's proposal to create a hybrid statewide test that would pull elements from both the PARCC common-core-aligned assessment and the state's own 17-year-old test.  

By an 8-3 vote, the board approved creation of a new English language arts and mathematics test to be administered by all of the state's schools by 2017. Students would have to pass the test in order to graduate. The board amended the original proposal so that school districts won't be held accountable for the online test's results until 2018.   

Massachusetts, one of the country's highest academically performing states, based on the  National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) had been debating for some time whether to expand its use of PARCC to all of its students or revert back to the Massachsetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test.  

At least five states have dropped PARCC in recent years because politicians felt it was too closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards, instead of homegrown standards. Just seven states and the District of Columbia 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 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and has administered the test for the past two years, though just half of its students participated last spring. 

Mitchell Chester, the state's commissioner of elementary and secondary education, told the Boston Globe last week that MCAS was a strong educational tool when it was developed but has over time led to an increase of teaching to the test. Over the past couple of months, others have convinced him that the state should maintain control of testing.  

PARCC began last week allowing states to buy parts of its test and choose their own vendor.

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 will roll out a "next-generation" test to all of its districts that combines both PARCC and MCAS items.  

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