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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Student Assessment Update July 16, 2013

Planning for Transition to PARCC

In his July 12 update to superintendents and school leaders, Commissioner Chester provided the following information about the transition to PARCC.

As you know, Massachusetts is one of 21 states working to develop the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments, which are next generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and anchored in the knowledge and skills students need to be ready for college and careers. PARCC will assess the standards contained in the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in English Language Arts and Literacy (ELA) Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document and Mathematics Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document , which incorporate the CCSS, and will provide a signal to higher education regarding whether students are on track to enroll in credit-bearing college coursework. PARCC will also deliver innovative technology-based items and performance-based tasks that will allow us to assess a broader range of the skills that we value and employers report are necessary for students to be successful after high school.

ESE envisions a transition period to move from our legacy MCAS assessments to PARCC. This will give our teachers and schools the time they need for implementation of the new Curriculum Frameworks in ELA and Mathematics. It will also allow us to continue to hold students, schools, and districts accountable for results while providing time for students and teachers to become acclimated to the new assessment system prior to its full-scale implementation. Later this fall, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will discuss and vote on a transition plan with the understanding that, as the Governor and Commissioner have committed from the outset, the state will only adopt PARCC if it proves to be as good as or better than our current MCAS assessments.

Looking ahead to the 2013-14 school year and beyond, there are some important updates to share at this time:

  • PARCC Resources: A range of resources is currently available to prepare staff and students for the new PARCC assessments. First and foremost, by ensuring that your district's curriculum is aligned to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, you are preparing students for the PARCC assessments. Secondly, on the PARCC website (, you will find a range of resources, including sample items. Later this summer, PARCC will release additional sample items. This fall we anticipate that a PARCC practice test will be available.
  • 2013-14 PARCC Field Test: Administering a field test, which involves a secure tryout of test items given to a representative sample of students and schools, is integral to the launch of any new testing program. PARCC will administer a field test in spring 2014 to a representative sample of about 10 percent of Massachusetts students in grades 3-11. Next month, ESE will notify schools selected to participate in this spring 2014 field test. Over the next few weeks, we will share additional information related to testing windows, technology requirements, a paper-and-pencil option, and other details.
  • Technology Requirements: We are working with legislators, the Mass. School Building Authority, and federal e-rate authorities to secure funds to upgrade the technology infrastructure across the Commonwealth's schools. By creating 21st Century classrooms, we provide our educators and students with access to digital learning resources and opportunities, as well as permit online administration of assessments. We will have further announcements about technology requirements and opportunities this fall.
  • CD Requirement for the Classes of 2014-2017: It is imperative that prior to any wholesale changes in the Competency Determination (CD) requirement as a result of transitioning to PARCC, we allow students and teachers adequate lead time to adjust to any changes. Accordingly, at least through the class of 2017, the current MCAS high school graduation requirement in ELA, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) will remain in effect. This means that students in the classes of 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 must continue to pass the grade 10 MCAS tests and/or retests in ELA, Mathematics, and STE in order to meet the state's CD requirement. High school students in those classes will take MCAS (rather than PARCC) to satisfy the CD requirement.

As a reminder, PARCC will only assess ELA and Mathematics. Therefore, we anticipate the current MCAS Science and Technology/Engineering tests will continue even as we implement PARCC. As the development of PARCC continues in the coming year, ESE will provide additional updates on any changes to the CD requirement for the classes of 2018 and beyond.

ESE recognizes that students, educators, school and district leaders, parents, and others will have many questions about PARCC - from what the new testing experience will look and feel like, to how the time commitment and testing window will compare to MCAS. While such concerns and questions are understandable, we are truly excited about the promise and opportunities that a next generation assessment system will bring for the Commonwealth's students and educators, and are confident that those benefits will far outweigh any complications or inconvenience posed during the planned transition period. We are committed to continuing to provide answers to these questions and to share useful resources to help everyone develop a clear, informed understanding of PARCC and the utility of this new assessment system. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please email ESE at

Important Upcoming Dates

  • July 22: Registration opens at 9:00 a.m. for the MCAS and Accountability Reporting Teleconferences. The teleconferences will be held on:
    • Wednesday, August 7 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.
    • Thursday, August 8 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.
      Please register at
  • August 7:
    • MCAS and MCAS-Alt full preliminary results in all subjects, including Mathematics and STE, will be posted electronically in DropBox Central in the Department's Security Portal.
    • The MCAS and Accountability discrepancy reporting window opens.
    • The online application for reporting MCAS discrepancies is available at
  • August 13: The MCAS and Accountability discrepancy reporting window closes at 5:00 p.m.

About this Update

The Student Assessment Services Update provides important information about the state's testing programs. Please email your feedback to

Principals, heads of school, MCAS test coordinators, and ELL directors received this email based on contact information that was submitted to the Department. To change your email address, please follow the instructions below:

  • Public schools: Submit updates to your District-Level Directory Administrator, who is responsible for submitting updates to the Department. A listing of Directory Administrators is posted at
  • Non-public schools and collaboratives: Submit updates (along with your District & School Code) to the Department via email at

Last Updated: July 31, 2013
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