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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

To: Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
June 13, 2014


Update on PARCC Field Tests and District Choice of PARCC or MCAS for 2015

At the June 24, 2014, meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, I will update the Board on the 2014 PARCC Field Test, as well as the current status of the District Choice Survey: PARCC or MCAS in 2015.

Field Test Update

Students throughout Massachusetts participated in the PARCC Performance-Based Assessment field test administered in March-April, as well as the End-of-Year field test administered in May-June. The second phase of field testing was completed on June 6. In total, approximately 81,000 students in grades 3-11, in 1,050 schools, were randomly selected to take either online or paper-based PARCC tests. Approximately two-thirds of the schools participated online, and one-third took the paper-based test. While there was some anxiety about testing online, only five schools (<1%) were excused during the field test because they were unable to successfully connect and administer the online field test. Next year, schools administering the PARCC test will be able to choose either the paper-based version or the online version.

Student surveys conducted after the online Performance-Based Assessments in March-April indicate that most students (74% for ELA; 56% for Mathematics) prefer taking the test online. Survey results from the End-of-Year field test administration will be available in early August.

PARCC vs. MCAS Choice

As part of the two-year MCAS-to-PARCC transition plan that the Board has approved, the Department asked districts to choose whether they wish to administer MCAS or PARCC in 2015 to students in grades 3-8. Additionally, districts have the option to administer PARCC assessments to students in grades 9 and 11.

To facilitate planning for the 2015 operational assessment, the Department is encouraging districts to report their decision by the end of June. However, we recognize that not every district will have time before the close of the school year to make an informed choice. Consequently, we will accommodate the decisions in two phases:

  1. Early Decision: Districts that commit by June 30, 2014, are guaranteed their choice of PARCC or MCAS in grades 3-8. All grade 9 and 11 choices are subject to appropriation.
  2. Rolling Admissions: Districts that make their choice between July 1 and October 1 will have their choice honored subject to funding and the need to have a large representative sample taking both the PARCC and MCAS tests next year.

As of June 13, 2014, 83 districts had submitted a decision:

Number of
applicable responses
# % # %
Grades 3-8 78 33 42% 45 58%
Grades 9 and/or 11 55 N/A N/A 14 25%

Of the districts choosing PARCC, the majority have decided to administer the test online or through a mix of paper-based testing and computer-based testing, as shown in the table below. A smaller percentage has chosen to administer the PARCC Algebra I test at grade 8.

Spring 2015 Number of Districts
Administering PARCC
Paper- Based Tests (Paper)
Computer- Based Tests (CBT)
Mix of Paper and CBT
Algebra I (Grade 8)
Grades 3-8 4516 36%24 53% 5 11%13 29%
Grades 9 and/or 11 14 3 21% 11 79% 0 0% N/A N/A

Last Updated: June 19, 2014
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