The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
March 15, 2013

At the March 26, 2013, meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, I will update the Board on our work to develop the next generation of student assessments through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium, of which Massachusetts is a member.

PARCC is an alliance of 22 states working together to create next generation assessments in English language arts/literacy and mathematics aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and anchored in what students need to be ready for college and careers. As you know, the 2011 Massachusetts curriculum frameworks in English language arts/literacy and mathematics incorporate the CCSS, which call on students to have not only solid content knowledge but also the skills to apply their knowledge in ways demanded by colleges, careers, and citizenship in the 21st century. The consortium's work is funded by a four-year $186 million Race to the Top Assessment Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

PARCC is a state-led enterprise and currently is comprised of 19 "governing states" and 3 "participating states." Governing states are committed to active involvement in the governance of the consortium and the development of the PARCC assessments, and have agreed to administer these assessments beginning with the 2014-15 school year. Massachusetts is a governing state in PARCC. Governor Patrick, former Secretary Reville, and I agreed to have the Commonwealth join PARCC at its inception and adopt its English language arts and mathematics assessments provided they are as good as, or better than, our current MCAS assessments.

I am honored to serve as chair of the PARCC Governing Board, which is comprised of the chief state school officers of the governing states. I have been elected to this position by the Governing Board for three consecutive years. I am assisted by several Department staff members who are deeply involved in the PARCC leadership team and serve on multiple working groups to ensure that the consortium achieves its goal to develop a next-generation assessment system of the highest quality.

PARCC has secured an active higher education role in an effort to provide students, their families, and educators with accurate feedback on whether students are on track to, or have reached readiness for, credit-bearing college coursework. One of PARCC's goals is that higher education will have sufficient confidence in PARCC's college-ready determinations and will use students' PARCC results for placement decisions, a commitment that has been made by all of the Commonwealth's public institutions of higher education. Massachusetts is fortunate to have our Commissioner of Higher Education, Richard Freeland, serve as co-chair of the Advisory Committee on College Readiness (ACCR), the higher education complement to the PARCC Governing Board.

PARCC will develop an assessment system comprised of several components. Each component will be computer-based and will use technology to incorporate innovations:

Particularly important in PARCC's assessment design is the assessment of writing at all grade levels (compared to grades 4, 7, and 10 in MCAS) and the inclusion of rigorous performance-based assessments that will better measure the knowledge, skills, and practices required for success in college and the workplace. Because the assessments will be computer-based, they will be more authentic and engaging for students, will produce more timely results for educators, and have the potential to reduce our costs for English language arts and mathematics assessments.

Senior Associate Commissioner Bob Bickerton will join our discussion at the Board meeting on March 26. Unfortunately, Associate Commissioner for Student Assessment Liz Davis and PARCC Coordinator Steve Chrostowski will not be able to join us since they will be engaged in a PARCC Leadership Team meeting in Washington D.C. More information about PARCC can be found at PARCC's website.