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Committee discusses choice of PARCC over MCAS

Date: 6/13/2014

By Carley Dangona

WEST SPRINGFIELD – As the School Committee considers switching to Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), it considers which schools will utilize the hard copy form and which schools will use the online form.
The School Committee is considering replacing the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) with PARCC. The new test would be in place for the 2015 school year for grades three to eight. The vote is slated for its June 24 meeting.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Russell Johnston informed the committee it has until June 30 to submit its preference in order to have the best opportunity to receive its first choice.
Johnston stated he had the opportunity to speak with administrators, the Teachers’ Association and with a parent group to discuss the change.
“All three groups have said to me that they think we should pursue PARCC,” he said. “Their rationale is that PARCC is coming and this is a good chance for us to begin to get our feet wet and we shouldn’t put off our investment that we make in learning more about how [the] next generation assessment works.”
The superintendents said that some parents were “not very enthusiastic about statewide testing to begin with” but support PARCC over the MCAS.
The PARCC website describes the goal of its method, “PARCC is based on the core belief that assessment should work as a tool for enhancing teaching and learning. Because the assessments are aligned with the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards, they ensure that every child is on a path to college and career readiness by measuring what students should know at each grade level. They will also provide parents and teachers with timely information to identify students who may be falling behind and need extra help.”
Johnston advised the committee that if the district chose to administer the MCAS in grades three to eight, it could still use PARCC in grades nine and 11. PARCC is offered in both hard copy and online formats.
Addressing committee member Michelle Serration’s question, Johnston noted that if PARCC is chosen for the elementary and middle school level, it’s a “district-wide” choice and cannot be used in only one school or grade. In contrast, he added, “Yes, you can take PARCC in grades nine and 11 on an al a carte basis by subject or by grade.”
Vice Chair Nancy Farrell asked whether the School District must determine what methods would be used in which schools if it chooses PARCC when its submits its preference to the state. Johnston said he would research the timeframe for the designation.
Johnston anticipated the paper form would be utilized in grades third to eighth since the online version would require each school to provide enough computers to accommodate testing.