At our last PTO meeting, State Representative Sean Garballey joined us, and we had a discussion about where the state would be heading this spring in terms of assessments. The following is a letter from Commissioner Mitchell Chester & the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that I received yesterday:
“Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Principals,
I am writing to update you on discussions I had with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at its meetings on October 19-20. As you know, we have reached the end of our two-year test drive of PARCC, and the Board is scheduled to vote on Nov. 17 on next steps for statewide testing. While I have not yet made my recommendation to the Board, I want to share with you what I have shared with the Board.
Until recently, I thought about this as a binary decision: whether to adopt PARCC or continue with MCAS. On October 19, I told the Board there is a third option worth considering: using the effort we’ve invested in PARCC to create MCAS 2.0. To this end, I shared three considerations that are guiding my reasoning.
First, MCAS has served the Commonwealth well. I can’t imagine that the success of our students and educators would have been possible without a high-quality assessment that provided feedback on student, school, district, and state achievement and progress. Now that we have the benefit of two decades of experience and have upgraded our curriculum frameworks and content standards, it is time to upgrade our assessments.
Second, in important ways, PARCC sets a higher bar than MCAS for student performance. This is particularly true as students move into middle and high school. This higher bar is not simply about being harder. PARCC is designed to assess our updated understanding of learning progressions in mathematics, text complexity and the interplay of reading and writing, research skills, and the academic expectations of higher education and employers. Many Massachusetts K-12 educators, higher education faculty, and DESE staff contributed to making PARCC a strong assessment.
In addition, the online assessment experience is qualitatively different than taking a paper-and-pencil test. The online environment is more engaging (students prefer it by almost a two-to-one margin); the introduction of video and audio increases accessibility for many students, including English language learners and students with disabilities; and the online setting mirrors the digital world that is ubiquitous in students’ lives and futures.
Third, while Massachusetts has exercised a leadership role among the consortium states, any path forward that includes PARCC must be a path over which we have control. To be confident that we exercise ultimate agency over the direction of the Commonwealth’s assessment program, I am considering options for taking advantage of our access to PARCC to build MCAS 2.0.
I will continue to develop these ideas in the coming weeks, and I look forward to sharing my recommendation to the Board with you in early November.”
As soon as the decision in made, I will share it with you.