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Five Acton Schools Will Take Possible MCAS Replacement Test

Eighteen states worked together to develop the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam.

Photo credit: Patch file photo.
Photo credit: Patch file photo.
Written by Les Masterson

Acton's Merriam Elementary, McCarthy-Towne Elementary, Douglas Elementary, Luther Conant Elementary and Gates Elementary School will take the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests as part of a test group this spring.

State education officials are testing whether to replace the MCAS test with the PARCC. Massachusetts is one of 18 states that has been working to develop PARCC. More than 1.35 million students from 14 states will take PARCC field tests in English language arts or mathematics this spring.

About 81,000 Massachusetts students (approximately 8% of the state’s total public school enrollment) will take a PARCC field test.

Douglas School will take the paper PARCC exam, while Merriam, McCarthy-Towne, Gates and Luther Conant will take the online test.

The state Department of Education and Secondary Education said the PARCC “has the potential to deliver clearer signals to schools, colleges, employers, and parents about what students know and can do and whether they are on the pathway to success after high school.”

Education officials will have a two-year “try out” to determine whether the PARCC “can better serve the Commonwealth's goal of ensuring that all students have the academic preparation necessary to successfully pursue higher education, careers, and citizenship” than the MCAS.

The state has been working with participating schools since September to choose a representative sample of students from a few classes at each school to take the field test. The students who take the field test will not receive a score or grade.

"The academic learning standards we adopted in 2010 are strong, comprehensive, and academically demanding, and we need an equally strong assessment aligned to those standards," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester, who is chair of the PARCC Governing Board. "PARCC promises to provide more accurate measures of the skills that are keys to success after high school. The two-year pilot of PARCC will allow us to build the best test we can and better evaluate whether PARCC could replace our current testing program."

Though Massachusetts students lead the nation in academy performance, state education officials said “challenges remain to ensures that all students are successful.”

“Nearly 40 percent of public high school students in Massachusetts who enroll in one of the states' public higher education campuses are placed in one or more non-credit bearing, remedial courses. In 2010, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to adopt new learning standards that capitalized on feedback from employers and higher education about where our students were often lacking in terms of their literacy and mathematical skills,” according to the state Department of Education and Secondary Education.

State education officials said the MCAS, which started in 1998, has not been upgraded and “was never designed to access college and career readiness.”

The PARCC, on the other hand, is “aligned to the Commonwealth’s new learning standards, will deliver innovative technology-based items and performance-based tasks to better measure students' abilities to think critically and apply what they know. PARCC will assess writing at all tested grades (3-11), rather than just in grades 4, 7, and 10, which is the case for MCAS. PARCC will produce more timely results for school districts to assist educators in planning and tailoring instruction for students in the coming school year,” according to the state.

After this year’s field test, school districts will have the option of administering the PARCC or MCAS to students in grades 3-11 in 2014-15. Grade 10 students will still need to pass the MCAS test in English language arts and mathematics to receive a high school diploma through the Class of 2018.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to vote in fall 2015 whether to replace the MCAS with PARCC in England language arts and mathematics.

Editor's Note: The headline on this story was changed to indicate that there are five Acton schools taking the test, not four as was originally posted.

Me February 11, 2014 at 10:32 PM
Does this mean the kids at these schools will have to take BOTH the MCAS AND PARCC exams. It seems a bit excessive.
Jill Maxwell February 12, 2014 at 07:54 AM
The first thing I wondered was, which four schools are taking this test? The answer: five. The second thing I wondered was, will my children have to take TWO standardized tests that mean nothing to them and will not affect their grades but will take up weeks of school time? I guess they will, because right now MCAS is the law, so this potential replacement test will be in addition to the MCAS. But I guess I don't know for sure, because this reporter failed to include that crucial bit of info.
Jill Maxwell February 12, 2014 at 09:08 AM
I see now that way down in graf 7 it says there will be a SAMPLE of students. I think that this information should have been in the lede. You know, the part where it lists the FIVE schools involved.
Matt Schooley February 12, 2014 at 09:38 AM
Apologies on the four versus five confusion. I had originally missed one on the list when putting the story on the site and added it to the list in the story. However, I mistakenly did not correct the headline. Sorry for the confusion!
Scott Smyers February 14, 2014 at 01:19 PM
This is a great example of the inherent problems with Common Core/PARCC. Which students will "volunteer" to take two sets of standardized tests? This lucky "sample" of students will certainly give it their all?! I expect these scores will follow them in spite of what parents are told. Some will take the test on paper and others on computer systems. I'll venture to predict that we'll need to upgrade some computer systems for all students in the near future (probably many times). How much will that cost us? According to my research, the state authorities claim no extra cost. We now know that was very, very incorrect (a deliberate lie to us the parents). Plus, all the mandatory teacher evaluation paperwork that has now required NEW adiministrative positions at every elementary school. Although I don't like MCAS in the first place, Common Core/PARCC is going to be much worse simply because we will lose most control of our local curriculum/frameworks to an even more distant authority. In other words, our teachers and schools are losing control of what they are allowed to teach. Until now, the authority we gave up was at the state level, but now the it is going to the Feds. In education, one size does not fit all. Our students are not test-subjects for educational testing companies/Common Core nobles. It isn't too late to take back the local schools, but the longer we wait, the harder it will become.

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