Massachusetts Ed Commish Announces Hybrid MCAS/PARCC Test


State Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester informed students in Massachusetts and their families of what is likely to be the new state achievement test that will be used in the coming years. The test will be a combination of the old Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and the much-maligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), writes Jeremy C. Fox of The Boston Globe.

Although the final vote is days away, Chester announced that the new test will be called MCAS 2.0. The test is the first significant change in assessment instruments in almost twenty years. What the hybrid will examine and what students will need to prepare for the test are still up in the air.

Co-chairwoman of Boston’s Citywide Parent Council, Angelina Camacho, supports the hybrid assessment, but worries that completing the processes necessary to put the test in place might take longer than the 2017 deadline Chester suggested to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, members of which will have final approval of the changes.

“My concern is, how real is that timeline, and during that timeline will we be so deadline-focused that we don’t actually get all stakeholders fully engaged?” Camacho asked.

At the board’s October meeting, Chester presented his plan for the hybrid test, which was a surprise to members because he was the central architect of the PARCC assessment. He changed his opinion over the past few months because of his concern over the state maintaining control of testing.

Educators in Massachusetts, who had a part in developing PARCC, made agreements and concessions with other states that were part of the exam development consortium. Chester wants educational officials to have total control of the evaluation to ensure that it continues to align with stringent state standards.

“In order to keep our position as a national leader in student achievement we should develop a hybrid MCAS 2.0, which draws on the best of both PARCC and MCAS, while ensuring that Massachusetts is able to control its own destiny,’’ James A. Peyser, the state’s secretary of education and a voting member of the education board said in a statement.

Barbara Madeloni, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, believes the change is a mistake. The union thinks that overtesting students is harmful and that using scores to evaluate students, teachers, and schools is the wrong approach.

Governor Charlie Baker is glad that Massachusetts will develop a new test of its own, which means the state will be in control so it can do what is best for the children of the Commonwealth.

WBUR Radio reports that the PARCC consortium once included 24 states and the District of Columbia, but now most have left PARCC because of politics, cost, or technology barriers. Chester explained that districts which gave PARCC in the spring of 2015 would do the same this year. Districts that gave MCAS could use it again or switch to PARCC.

The results from last year showed that students in grades 3-8 were, on average, likely not to perform as well on PARCC as those students who took the traditional MCAS, says the Associated Press.

The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and the Pioneer Institute, a think-tank located in Boston which opposes Common Core, both expressed support for Chester’s decision.