About this time last year, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) was deciding whether to replace the state’s MCAS exam with a new assessment called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness). MBAE, after commissioning research comparing MCAS and PARCC that concluded the latter was a better indicator of college and career readiness, supported moving to PARCC.
We were astounded that Commissioner Mitchell Chester proposed the state undergo a time-consuming and expensive process to develop its own local assessment when Massachusetts had led a voluntary consortium of states to create the already field-tested PARCC. This move also delayed use of the new, better assessment while the state repeated what had been a five year process to design and test drive a “hybrid” test. Now, we are dismayed to learn that an additional year’s delay is proposed for the 10th grade exam. (Grades 3 through 8 will use the new “hybrid” tests in spring 2017)
MBAE strongly agrees that it is time to replace MCAS with a “next generation assessment” developed for current realities in education and the workforce. By aligning K-12 education with higher education’s expectations, we have the potential not only to provide more useful information to teachers and families about student progress, but also to reduce the need for remedial education. According to a report issued by the Center for American Progress, Massachusetts students spend $20.7 million dollars studying in college without earning credit what they should have learned in high school.
Postponing the transition to a new assessment also raises concerns for business leaders who don’t want to see class time wasted on teaching to tests that set a low bar for “proficiency”. Employers want to know that students have the skills to apply their knowledge, not just memorize and repeat. Higher education leaders in Massachusetts agree, finding PARCC so closely aligned with postsecondary expectations that they pledged to use it for placement in Massachusetts public colleges and universities if the readiness score was set at a high enough level.
MBAE will continue to seek assurance and evidence that the new test does not turn back the clock or dumb down expectations. We also reiterate our expectation that the state keep the pledge that BESE made not to duplicate five years of investment by the state and hundreds of Massachusetts educators who contributed to the development and field testing of PARCC. Anything less would be a disservice to students and taxpayers.