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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Student Assessment

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
February 19, 2016


Due to scheduling conflicts, we had to cancel this month's meeting of the Board's Assessment Oversight committee. We will instead take some time at our February 23 meeting to update the full Board on the student assessment work currently underway. Here are the highlights:

  • We are on schedule to administer this spring's MCAS and PARCC assessments. A selection of PARCC test items have been transferred from the PARCC testing vendor (Pearson) to the MCAS testing vendor (Measured Progress) for inclusion in the MCAS tests in grades 3-8.

  • The Next-Generation MCAS workgroups on Test Administration, High School Testing, and Accessibility/Accommodations have been meeting and will be reporting back to the Board's Assessment Oversight Committee at its next meeting on March 21. Among the issues being discussed by these workgroups are the length of the tests; the projected schedule for test administration and for receiving results; item release policies; possible changes to the high school test offerings; and a phase-in schedule for computer based testing.

  • The Communications workgroup, comprised of representatives of the major state education associations, has held its first meeting and will meet bimonthly to review project activities and ensure that everyone is kept informed. We are also engaging with the State Student Advisory Council, chaired by Board member Donald Willyard, to obtain student feedback on a range of testing issues.

  • The Department and the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents are co-sponsoring a "drive in" session on March 31 at Hudson High School to discuss the transition to computer based testing. All superintendents and district technology directors are invited.

  • The request for responses (RFR) for the new testing contract is being drafted by the Department's procurement management team, with advice and assistance from the Operational Services Division, the state's central procurement oversight agency. The RFR is currently scheduled for a mid-March release, with a 60-day response window.

  • The Governor included a request for an additional $1.8 million for our student assessment program in a fiscal year 2016 supplemental budget bill. This will help defray the additional costs associated with administering both MCAS and PARCC during this transition year. The Governor's fiscal year 2017 budget also included a $5.6 million increase for this appropriation, in anticipation of a new testing contract for the Next-Generation MCAS.

  • The educator panel charged with reviewing our current English language arts and mathematics standards is still being assembled and is scheduled to hold its first meeting next week. We will be soliciting feedback on the current standards and recommendations for specific improvements from all educators via our website.

  • The PARCC consortium is studying the impact of testing mode (computer based vs. paper) on test scores. Initial analysis did not show any clear, across the board impact. The differences varied across grades and subjects as well as from school to school and district to district. It is unclear whether mode effects are due to modality impact on the content and construct being assessed, or to student familiarity with technology and with composing on a computer. We'll continue to look at this issue as we analyze results from the spring 2016 PARCC tests, when many schools will be administering computer based tests for the second year in a row.

  • The PARCC consortium is also continuing to study needed changes in its organizational structure to accommodate multiple levels of state participation.

  • The PARCC consortium is offering districts the opportunity to try out a suite of diagnostic assessments designed specifically for use at the local level. Several Massachusetts districts have expressed an interest in this pilot project.

Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, Acting Associate Commissioner Michol Stapel, and other members of the Next-Generation MCAS project team will be at the Board's February 23 meeting to provide additional information and to answer your questions.

Last Updated: February 25, 2016
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