Seeking information about the state’s new PARCC assessment which Natick will take later this year and was piloted across the school system last year? Here is some key information.
PARCC, which stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a key component of the state’s commitment to prepare all students for success after high school. Natick will administer PARCC tests to students in grades 3 through 8 in two subjects, English language arts and mathematics, in March and May of this school year. Massachusetts, along with 18 other states, has been integral to developing the PARCC program to be used in any state who chooses to adopt it. A similar test is being developed by the Smarter Balanced Consortium (another assessment development group in the country).
The PARCC assessment seeks to measure whether students have mastered the concepts and skills in English language arts and mathematics outlined in the Common Core, but it is a separate initiative.
In 2010, Massachusetts adopted new learning standards corresponding to the Common Core State Standards, and since then, schools across the Commonwealth have been introducing them into classrooms. The standards are more rigorous than previous standards and are tied to the skills and knowledge that colleges and employers expect of our high school graduates. The best preparation for PARCC is good classroom instruction that focuses on the standards that students receive every day. While Common Core is already part of the state’s learning frameworks, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will not decide whether it will permanently adopt the PARCC assessment for our state until fall 2015.
Massachusetts school districts were asked to choose to take PARCC OR MCAS for the current year. Natick School Committee agreed to adopt PARCC for the 2014-15 school year in order to give students in grades 3 through 8 more time to become acclimated to the test. Students in grade 10, taking state tests for graduation, will continue to take MCAS through a transition period—at least through 2018. The MCAS science test will also continue–potentially beyond ’18– as there is no PARCC science equivalent in the works at this time.
Higher education has been a key partner in the development of the new PARCC tests. Educators from K-12 and higher education are playing integral roles in the development of the new PARCC tests. PARCC will provide clearer signals about students’ readiness for the next grade level and, in high school, readiness for college and careers. Each of Massachusetts’ 29 public two-year and four-year colleges and universities have committed to use student performance on the PARCC tests as an indicator of students’ readiness for entry-level, credit-bearing college courses.
PARCC is a computer-based test, though a paper-and-pencil option exists for additional cost. Natick Public Schools conducted field test of the computer-based option in the 2013-2014 and will take the test using district devices in this school year.
In future years, PARCC could replace MCAS as the state’s student testing program. Based on the two-year “test drive” of PARCC, the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education will evaluate the strengths of PARCC and the program’s ability to measure the state’s new academic learning standards in English language arts. The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote whether to fully adopt PARCC as the state’s new testing program in fall 2015. At this time, students will receive PARCC scores each fall—just as they did with MCAS. Districts area allowed a grace period relative to district achievement and improvement accountability as they transition to the new test in coming years.
This article includes information from MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.