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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
May 8, 2015

This week students in Massachusetts started taking the computer-based end of year PARCC tests in both English language arts and mathematics. No major problems have been reported, either here or in the other consortium states. Administration of the paper-based end of year tests will begin in Massachusetts next week.

Scoring of the performance based assessments (PBAs), which students took earlier in the year, is well underway. The process is being monitored by assessment staff from our Department and from the other consortium states. Planning is also underway for the standard setting process that will take place in late summer. The standards will determine how student scores are translated into the five performance levels that will be used for reporting purposes.

The final tally for the computer-based PBAs in Massachusetts was approximately 263,500 tests administered. (Most students took two tests each, English language arts and mathematics). Approximately 3,700 tests (1.4% of the total) were not completed for various reasons, including unexcused absences, medical reasons, incorrect accommodations, transfers out of district, refusals, and technology problems. By way of comparison, non-participation on MCAS tests has historically been around one percent. We will have more complete participation data after the paper forms have been returned and processed.

We continue to monitor the state budget deliberations and the projected appropriation for our state testing program. As you know, we requested, and the Governor included in his House 1 budget, some additional funding to ensure that we have the ability to give either PARCC or MCAS in the spring of 2016, depending on the Board's decision this fall. These additional funds were not included in the budget voted by the House of Representatives, but we are hopeful that they will be included in the Senate budget and accepted by the conference committee.

I was very pleased with the substantive feedback we received from the speakers at the first forum at Fitchburg State University. We heard from a number of school administrators and teachers who have had first-hand experience with the PARCC tests, and their comments - both positive and negative - will help us in our evaluation. The next public forum will be held at Bunker Hill Community College on May 18, the night before our regular Board meeting. Note that the forums scheduled for Bunker Hill and for Bridgewater State University (on June 10) will run from 5pm to 8pm rather than the previously announced 4pm to 7pm. This is in response to requests to offer some later times to accommodate those who cannot get there earlier.

In response to feedback from the field on the length of the tests and the relatively short window between the PBAs and the end of year tests, the consortium recently decided to combine the two components for English language arts beginning next year. Associate Commissioner Liz Davis played a key role in developing and analyzing this proposal with her colleagues from the other states. Combining the PBA and end of year tests for mathematics is more problematic, so they will continue to be administered separately next year.

Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson will join us on May 19 to provide a further update and answer any questions.

Last Updated: May 12, 2015
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