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Update on the Next-Generation MCAS Project and Review of the English Language Arts, Mathematics, and History/Social Science Standards

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
June 17, 2016

At the June 28, 2016 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, I will provide the latest information on the development of the next-generation MCAS, as well as an update on the review of our learning standards — including English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and history/social science. Highlights include:

  1. Student assessment and next-generation MCAS project.

    • 2016 PARCC and MCAS administration. The spring 2016 test administration is now complete, with over 70 percent of students in grades 3-8 taking PARCC exams and about 30 percent taking MCAS. Student absences and refusals were minimal. Statewide, a majority of students took the PARCC and MCAS tests via paper and pencil; 240,144 students successfully completed computer-based PARCC tests.

    • Vendor section. The Department's vendor selection committee is evaluating the proposals presented by the two test development bidders, American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Measured Progress. AIR's main subcontractor would be Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), and Measured Progress's main subcontractor would be Pearson Education North America. We anticipate entering into a contract with the selected vendor over the summer. The proposals are being evaluated based on each bidder's general plan, management and staffing qualifications, corporate and technical capacity, online test delivery and management platform, proposed budget, and ability to carry out the optional tasks and future directions described in the procurement. The twelve members of the vendor selection committee include Department staff, representatives from Massachusetts school districts, and representatives from Massachusetts public higher education.

    • Test content review panels. We received 239 applications from classroom teachers and curriculum specialists expressing their willingness to serve on panels that will help review next-generation MCAS test questions for grade appropriateness, alignment to the curriculum frameworks, and potential bias. Selected members will be notified by the end of June. Panels will be created for each grade and subject area and are expected to begin work in late 2016, after the selection of a testing vendor.

    • Workgroups that have published their recommendations include:

      • Accessibility. The 25-member Accessibility Workgroup has published recommendations on accommodations and test administration considerations.
      • High school testing. While students in grades 3-8 will take the next-generation MCAS in spring 2017, the existing MCAS tests will remain a graduation requirement through the class of 2019 (students who are sophomores in 2016-17). The High School Testing Workgroup, which consisted of 35 K-12 educators and higher education faculty, drew up recommendations about the specific English language arts, math, and science and technology/engineering tests to be offered in high school, the sequence of tests required for an updated Competency Determination that will begin with the class of 2020 (freshmen who enter in fall 2016), and the timeline for transitioning to the next-generation MCAS at the high school level. I expect to discuss these issues and others with the Board in greater detail in the fall.
      • Test administration. A group of seventeen educators provided recommendations on key issues such as the number and length of testing sessions, whether tests should be timed or untimed, the scheduling of testing windows, options for scoring and the dissemination of results, and schedules for phasing in computer-based testing.

      The Department plans to summarize all workgroup recommendations and share them with the field in the coming weeks.

    • Summer schedule for the Board's Assessment Oversight Committee. The summer meetings are scheduled for July 18, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and August 10, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., at the Department. All Board members are invited.

  2. Standards review panels.

    • The English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards Review Panel met for the third time on June 3, 2016, to incorporate feedback from over 400 comments received via the Department's online survey. If Board members or others are interested in giving feedback, the survey will be open through the end of June. The review panel will meet again in July to finalize its recommendations. The Department expects to bring the recommendations for revising the standards to the Board in early fall for a vote to send the proposed changes out for comment, and then bring them back to the Board to adopt the updated standards/frameworks later in the year.

    • Over 150 K-12 educators and higher education faculty applied to participate in the History and Social Science standards revision process. We will be selecting about 40 panel members and are planning a series of five meetings that will commence in October. The Department also will post a public comment form online by the end of July. In addition to reviewing the current standards and recommending revisions, the panel will propose options for the history and social science assessment.

  3. Project communications. The Board has expressed a strong desire for the Department to promote and communicate widely about the work of the assessment workgroups and the standards review panel. Attached is a one-pager on our communications efforts, which are multifaceted and continue to evolve. A brief summary includes the following activities:

    • Tele Town Hall. On June 8, I participated in a Tele Town Hall meeting with former Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Audrey Jackson. This statewide conference call, organized by Stand for Children, focused on student testing, the next-generation MCAS assessment, and the state's learning standards. More than 12,000 people residents participated.
    • Communication workgroup. We are making full use of the next-generation MCAS Communication Workgroup, made up of leaders from 13 statewide education and parent associations who share updates on the project with their member networks. This group meets every other month, and members also share with us feedback from the field.
    • Conference presentations. The next-generation MCAS team has scheduled 13 presentations with statewide education associations. Starting in May, five presentations have already occurred and the sessions will continue into November. These sessions provide the opportunity for educators all around the Commonwealth to get up-to-date and accurate answers to their questions.
    • Monthly e-newsletter. On June 14, we distributed the first edition of a newly designed, monthly e-newsletter, which we are sending to 56 statewide education and parent associations (including MTA, AFT-MA, MASS, MASC, and others), state legislators, superintendents, charter school leaders, principals, educators and all Department staff. The newsletter is attached.
    • Standards review website. Also this month, we launched the new standards review webpage, featuring updates on the ELA and math standards review, as well as the revisions to the HSS standards and the development of the associated assessment. This is the first time we have pulled together all our standards review work under a single banner. This will help to highlight the connected nature of our work.
    • Back-to-school packet. In addition to the items above, we are planning a back-to-school packet for superintendents and principals to use (or edit as they need) at their open house nights with parents or at their staff meetings.

Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and I would be pleased to respond to any questions at the June 28 meeting.


Overview of Communication Efforts
Next-Generation MCAS Newsletter, June 2016

Last Updated: June 21, 2016
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