This year, Massachusetts will make a decision as monumental as the one made in 1993 when the Commonwealth adopted standards-based education reforms that propelled us to the top of the nation on many measures of student achievement. Our choice will be whether to continue with the state’s own Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests or to replace it with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) exams being field-tested in schools this spring. The decision will be made by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), which could also propose another course of action.
This is not a new process. Since education standards, known as the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, were put in place two decades ago to set common benchmarks for student learning across the state, these have been regularly updated along with the associated MCAS tests. The most recent version of our standards has been implemented in schools since 2011. Now, it is time to make sure our assessments are aligned with what is being taught and what students are expected to learn.
The stakes are high for employers who depend on a well-educated and highly skilled workforce to thrive and grow. What Massachusetts chooses to assess inevitably influences what is taught in schools, how it is taught, which curriculum and materials are used, and, ultimately, whether students graduate ready to succeed. It is apparent from our high remediation rates at public colleges and universities, and the skills gap that employers contend with daily, that our current measures are not aligned with college and career expectations.
MBAE commissioned this study to determine how well the MCAS and PARCC exams actually indicate college- and career- readiness, what we consider the most important value provided by these tests. We hope this study can focus attention on the need to ensure assessments are aligned with the demands our students will face after high school graduation. Read the documents below to learn why it is essential that we move beyond “proficiency” as a goal, and instead educate ALL students to be “future ready” – prepared to succeed on any path they pursue.
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