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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Student Assessment

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
September 11, 2015


This fall I will be making a recommendation to you on whether Massachusetts should replace the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) assessments for English language arts and mathematics with the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments. We have scheduled a substantial amount of time for briefings and discussion on this important question.

September 21: The Monday evening Board meeting this month is designed to provide Board members with a solid understanding of our student assessment program. We will provide an overview and background on both the MCAS and PARCC tests - how they are similar and the ways in which they differ. Other topics will include:

  • the initial presentation of state-level results from the spring 2015 administrations of both MCAS and PARCC (more information below);

  • an update on districts' technological readiness for online testing; and

  • an overview of the PARCC analyses and evaluations already completed or currently underway.

September 22: At Tuesday's Board meeting, Associate Commissioner Carrie Conaway will discuss the recent study looking at testing and assessment practices in Massachusetts's districts and schools. This study was conducted for the Department by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Although the study does not directly address the PARCC/MCAS decision, concerns about testing time make it relevant to our discussion.

October 19-20: We will continue our review and evaluation of the PARCC assessment at the October Board meetings. We will present additional results, analyses, and evaluations.

Early November: I will provide you with my recommendation via email.

November 16: The Board will hold its final public comment session from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm in the Malden High School auditorium. This will provide our stakeholders and the public an opportunity to offer comments on my recommendation. This session will be in lieu of public comments at the Tuesday morning meeting.

November 17: The Board will conclude its discussion and vote on the Commissioner's recommendation. Immediately following the vote, the Department will notify districts of the Board's decision and provide information on implications for the spring 2016 test administration.

December 14-15: If PARCC is adopted, we will continue the discussion on the administration of the high school tests and the competency determination. If PARCC is not adopted, we will begin a discussion of possible changes and upgrades to MCAS. In either case, these discussions will continue into 2016.

Because of the large volume of supporting documents that will accompany this discussion, we are making an effort to set up a dedicated webpage where documents can be accessed easily by you and by members of the public. If we are unable to do, we will distribute the initial materials for the September 21 meeting to you via CD-ROM next week.


MCAS and PARCC Score Results

As indicated in the chart below, we will be releasing the results of the spring 2015 MCAS and PARCC administrations at various points over the next several months. Because this is the first year of PARCC operational testing, additional time was required to establish the performance levels and set the cut scores for each test version. School and district accountability levels will be published once final data are available from both MCAS and PARCC.

DateWhat is Released?
September 21, 2015
  • MCAS statewide results
  • Partial PARCC statewide results
September 24-25
  • MCAS district and school results
  • MCAS individual student reports shipped to districts
October/ November
  • Final PARCC statewide results
  • PARCC district and school results
  • Accountability results (levels 1-5) for all districts and schools
  • PARCC individual student reports shipped to districts

The PARCC results that we will be releasing on September 21 will not be a complete, final package, but because of the timetable for the Board's deliberations, I thought it important to share with you whatever data we have available.

The Department has provided districts with two fact sheets that address questions about this year's state assessments and the Board's upcoming decision. One of the handouts is aimed primarily at parents, while the second is designed for teachers and administrators. We have included copies of these fact sheets in your Board book.


Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson is coordinating the presentations on this agenda item. Please contact him or me if you need any additional information.

Last Updated: September 15, 2015
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