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Commissioner's Weekly Update - March 8, 2013

Update on Development of PARCC Tests:

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a 22-state consortium, of which Massachusetts is a member, developing next generation assessments in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. PARCC is developing these new assessments in grades 3-11 for try-out in the 2014-15 school year. The PARCC assessments are aligned to the Commonwealth's new curriculum frameworks in ELA and mathematics, which incorporate the Common Core State Standards.

Many of the new features under development are directly responsive to the concerns that we have heard about the state's current MCAS testing system. Those concerns include that MCAS tests only a limited range of skills and competencies that can be assessed during a traditional "sit-down-and-take-this-test-in-the-next-hour-or-two" format; the high school tests do not measure a student's readiness for college and career; and paper-and-pencil formats fail to take advantage of online administration, which expedites turnaround of results and permits innovative assessment formats.

Among the enhancements of the new assessments, PARCC will add technology-based components, assess college and career ready standards, and incorporate more open-ended components to assess a broader range of the skills and competencies in our standards that we value. To do so, PARCC will be administered in two windows - the first, for performance-based assessments roughly three-quarters of the way through the school year; the second, for more traditional, end-of-year assessments after roughly 90 percent of the school year - thus permitting expedited turnaround of results.

PARCC's March 2013 guidance document contains important information on test design, the testing window and approximate testing time, and "rule of thumb" guidance on the number of computer devices needed to administer the PARCC assessments. The guidance is located at

http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC%20Assessment%20Administration%20Guidance_FINAL_0.pdf. An Excel-based tool is also available for districts and schools to gauge their readiness to administer computer-based tests in 2014-15. This assessment capacity planning tool will help district leaders in making decisions about whether they need to make additional technology investments or adjustments to school technology configurations to better prepare for PARCC. As a fallback, a paper-and-pencil version of the assessment is being developed.

The readiness tool, which requires the entry of a limited number of data points, is located online at http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCCCapacityPlanningTool.xlsx.

For additional support, district and school leaders may refer to a user guide, a PDF version of the tool, a small elementary school-based example, and an FAQ. If you have additional questions, please contact parcc@doe.mass.edu.

School Turnaround AmeriCorps Initiative:

The U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service have launched a new collaborative initiative, called School Turnaround AmeriCorps, to strengthen and accelerate interventions in the nation's lowest-performing schools. The new, competitive, three-year grant will engage hundreds of AmeriCorps members in turnaround schools across the country. AmeriCorps members will help students, teachers, and principals to transform struggling schools by providing opportunities for academic enrichment, extended learning time, and individual supports for students. A notice of intent to apply is due to the Corporation by April 2, 2013. Applications are due on April 23, 2013. For more information, go to http://www.nationalservice.gov/for_organizations/funding/nofa_detail.asp?tbl_nofa_id=100.

Governor's FY14 Budget Recommendations:

Governor Patrick this week released a Revenue Modeling tool to provide additional information about the impact of the Administration's FY14 budget recommendation on state revenues and taxpayers. To see the tool, go to http://www.mass.gov/governor/agenda/ma-revenue-modeling-tool-.html.

This Week's School Visits:

Commissioner Chester visited the Morse School in Cambridge.

For Your Info:

  • District-Determined Measures: As a follow up to a piece in the March 1, 2013 Weekly Update, we want to ensure that all districts and schools understand the process for implementing District-Determined Measures (DDMs). DDMs will inform each educator's rating of impact on student learning, growth, and achievement. This Impact Rating must be based on trends (at least two year's worth of data) and patterns (data from at least two measures of student learning). Therefore, while districts will begin to implement DDMs during the 2013-14 school year, ESE does not expect districts to begin determining Impact Ratings until trends and patterns have been established. For more on DDMs, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/edeval/resources/QRG-Measures.pdf.

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Last Updated: March 8, 2013
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