Background on Next-Gen MCAS
Massachusetts and the PARCC Consortium
In 2008, ESE began planning for a next-generation MCAS to replace the existing, 10-year-old test. Data from our state higher education system regarding the high number of students requiring remedial courses pointed out the need for more rigorous assessments at the high school level to signal readiness for success after high school.
At all grades, ESE wanted to encourage a greater focus on critical thinking skills, as well as richer feedback to students and teachers on areas of strength and weakness. The Department also wanted to explore options for a computer-based assessment and knew that changes would be needed to reflect the new English language arts and math frameworks then under development.
Budget constraints arising out of the recession ended this effort before it got very far. Then the U.S. Department of Education offered funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to states that were willing to work together to develop assessments of college- and career-ready standards. Two such multi-state consortia were established and funded: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium.
Massachusetts was one of the founding members of PARCC. Our participation was an opportunity to pool our expertise with other states, share the cost of test development, and realize economies of scale in test administration.
The PARCC Governing Board is comprised of the chief state school officer of each member state. Each state also provides the time and expertise of state agency staff, educators from the field, and higher education faculty through their participation in leadership groups, advisory committees, and test development activities.
ESE staff has devoted a substantial amount of time to PARCC over the past five years. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's vote of November 17, 2015, to approve the development of a next-generation MCAS also included a provision that Massachusetts remain an active member of the PARCC consortium.