PARCC Field Test Updates and an Invitation to Participate in Conference Calls on Upcoming MCAS Exemption Decision - REGISTER BETWEEN NOW AND NOVEMBER 18- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers

PARCC Field Test Updates and an Invitation to Participate in Conference Calls on Upcoming MCAS Exemption Decision - REGISTER BETWEEN NOW AND NOVEMBER 18

To:Superintendents Participating in the PARCC Field Test
From:Bob Bickerton, Senior Associate Commissioner
Date:November 7, 2013


During the recent M.A.S.S. sponsored "drive-ins" related to PARCC, Maureen LaCroix and I were able to share a great deal of information about the upcoming field tests and several other aspects of the transition from MCAS to PARCC. We also received a great deal of feedback, including many excellent recommendations and requests related to "next steps." This email provides you with notice of upcoming conference calls related to field-test logistics, as well as important information related to the accountability decisions that many of you will be making over the coming weeks.

To help superintendents plan for the administration of spring 2014 MCAS and PARCC field testing and make informed choices about whether to have students participate in both tests - or not - the Department will conduct informational sessions via toll-free conference calls according to the schedule below:

Wednesday, November 2010:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Wednesday, November 203:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 2110:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

PARCC Field Tests and School Accountability Determinations

Thank you for your feedback on the accountability options that the Department distributed for your comment; our goal is to ensure that schools are not disadvantaged by their participation in the PARCC field tests. Following is some background to the issue and how your feedback led to the Commissioner's decision for how we can realize this commitment.

In spring 2014, approximately two-thirds of the Commonwealth's schools representing most districts in the state will participate in the PARCC field tests. The Department is allowing districts to waive the MCAS testing requirement for those students who take the Performance-Based Assessment (PBA) component of the field test; this applies to grades 3-8 and only in the same subject as the PARCC PBA. We provided this option because the schedule for the administration of the PARCC PBA field test overlaps substantially with the administration of the MCAS ELA exams. The MCAS waiver option allows districts to avoid "double-testing" students and limits the amount of time taken from instruction to administer the assessments.

Districts that take advantage of the MCAS waiver option will, however, have less assessment data available to inform accountability determinations. The random selection of classes to participate in the field test also raises concerns that the students in these classes may not be representative of all students in their grade level; the field tested students could be the highest- or lowest-performing students in their grade. These impacts will most often be contained to a single grade level in a school although the random selection process has also identified more than one grade for the PARCC PBA field test in several cases.

In response to questions and recommendations received from district leaders related to exercising the MCAS waiver option, Commissioner Chester has committed that no school will have its accountability rating disadvantaged by participating in the PARCC field test. The Department convened two regional meetings of superintendents and sent a memorandum to districts participating in the field test that solicited their feedback for how we may best deliver on this commitment. I am pleased to announce that the Commissioner has approved the following "district choice" protocol, recommended by the majority of district leaders who weighed in on the accountability options.

The district will have the option of selecting the higher annual accountability determination (2014 annual Progress and Performance Index, incorporating CPI, growth, percent Advanced, percent Warning/Failing) of the following two calculations made by the Department for each school participating in the PBA component of the PARCC field test:

  • a) Calculations including the field-tested grade(s).
  • b) Calculations excluding the field-tested grade(s).

This straightforward and uncomplicated solution to district concerns enables your schools to participate in the PARCC field test knowing that you will have the opportunity to mitigate disadvantages that may result from the random selection of classes in each school in the district by selecting the higher of two scores; this solution also preserves the accountability system for the overwhelming majority of schools.

A Non-Binding Poll followed by a Binding District Decision

At both of the "drive-in" conferences hosted by M.A.S.S. last month, many superintendents said it would be helpful to know how other districts are planning to handle the decision of whether to exempt students from MCAS or administer both tests. At your request, we have created a non-binding poll on the topic. We're asking that all superintendents respond with their current thinking on the matter, as it will help your fellow superintendents make their decision. The results of the poll will be announced during the conference calls.

After the November 21 conference call, the Department will collect your final, binding decision as to whether or not to take advantage of the MCAS exemption or to administer both MCAS and PARCC PBA tests. Your timely transmittal of your decision will be essential for us to request and obtain approval from the U.S. Department of Education for these exemptions from MCAS testing. More detailed instructions about this stage of the process will follow.

The current non-binding poll is available at and will be open until November 18.

Registration Instructions for the Conference Calls

Participants may register between now and November 18, 2013, by following the instructions below.

  1. Go online to Conference Calls on Accountability Options for Spring 2014.
  2. Follow the online instructions.

Presentation materials, instructions, and a pass code for accessing the call will be sent by email before the sessions.

Superintendents may invite additional staff members (e.g., principals, MCAS test coordinators, accountability coordinators) to participate together in a room with a speaker-phone (one phone line per district, please).

Overview of the Conference Calls

The conference calls will provide information to assist superintendents in making decisions about students who are potentially exempt from participating in MCAS.

As you know, all students in the tested grades who are educated with Massachusetts public funds must participate in MCAS. The only exception is for certain students in grades 3-8 who are exempt (at the discretion of the superintendent) from participating in the spring 2014 MCAS ELA or Mathematics test(s) because they were selected to participate in the Performance-Based Assessment (PBA) component of the spring 2014 PARCC field test in that subject.

This exemption is at the superintendent's discretion: students taking the PARCC PBA field test may participate in PARCC only or both MCAS and PARCC.

Next Steps

By November 18, 2013Superintendents register for one of the three conference calls and fill out the non-binding poll on their plans for MCAS testing. Results will be discussed during the conference calls.
By November 18, 2013Superintendents indicate their preference (this will take no more than two minutes! Just click on the link above) on the question of whether to give both MCAS and PARCC or just PARCC to students in classes selected to participate in the PARCC PBA field test.
By December 6, 2013Superintendents seeking to waive MCAS testing must indicate their plans to the Department.
January 6 - 17, 2014Principals order MCAS test materials for all students participating in MCAS.
January 2014The Department provides districts with a package of materials including sample parent letters, informational PowerPoint, informational one-pager, and other communications materials as requested by districts.

Notice of Intent to Apply for Waivers

Please note that ESE must request waivers of certain federal testing and reporting requirements to allow the double-testing and accountability flexibility described in this memo. A public notice of our intent to seek these waivers and of the opportunity to provide comment on our intent is available at

Please contact Student Assessment Services at 781-338-3625 or if you have any questions.

Thank you, as always, for your advice, support and the incredible work you and your staff do on behalf of our students.

Last Updated: November 13, 2013

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