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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on PARCC

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
September 12, 2014


At the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting on September 23, 2014, I will provide an update on our transition to the new PARCC assessments. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a multi-state consortium developing next-generation student assessments in English language arts and mathematics. Our goal is to develop a high-quality test that measures critical thinking and analytical skills, tracks the curriculum standards that our schools have been implementing since 2010, and provides useful feedback to teachers and parents on each student's progress toward college and career readiness - in short, a test worth teaching to.

We are actively engaged in the consortium's work, to ensure that the PARCC assessments meet our state's high standards. I serve as the chair of the partnership governing board, and staff from the Department's Student Assessment Services office work with the consortium on a daily basis on the details of test development. In addition, Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland co-chairs PARCC's Advisory Committee on College Readiness.

In November 2013, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a two-year timeline for the evaluation of the PARCC assessments. In the spring of 2014, the assessments were field tested in randomly selected schools and classrooms. Next spring, we will administer both the PARCC and MCAS tests, with districts given the choice of which test to administer. Districts have until the end of this month to indicate their choice; as of this writing, approximately 60% have selected PARCC and 40% have selected MCAS. This relatively even split should give us good comparative data. In the fall of 2015, the Board will review all of the data from this two-year "test drive" and make a final decision on whether to sunset the MCAS English language arts and math assessments for grades 3-8 and employ PARCC as the state testing program for these subjects beginning in the 2015/2016 school year.

As background for our discussion this month, I am enclosing the following documents:

  • My November 8, 2013, memorandum Download PDF Document  Download Word Document to the Board outlining the two-year transition plan.
  • Two informational flyers we have written to inform parents and the public about PARCC.
    10 Frequently Asked Questions about the Common Core State Standards and PARCC
  • Survey responses from last spring's field tests. We surveyed students who took the tests and teachers and principals who helped administer the tests, to get their reactions.

Joining us for the discussion at the Board meeting will be Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Bob Bickerton, recently retired senior associate commissioner who continues to assist us in the transition as a part-time consultant.


Last Updated: September 18, 2014
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