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School Committee elects to keep MCAS test in place

Date: 7/3/2014

AGAWAM – The Agawam Public School District will continue administering the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) to its students after the School Committee voted to 6 to 1 in favor of keeping the test.
After a public hearing, the committee voted to keep MCAS rather than switch to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) at its June 24 meeting. The district tested the PARCC pilot program in the 2013-2014 school year.
Rua said, “For me, every single teacher, every single parent – with the exception of one – every single student gave me a reason why the test was not ready. They’re [the Commonwealth] is rushing it [the implementation of PARCC]. It’s absolutely too fast.”
Rua’s main concerns were that the cost to implement the PARCC test had not been defined and that the special education department was not “prepared to administer” the test since the accommodation options for students in need had not yet been defined by the state. Rua stated that she wanted to see the results from the pilot, but that none of the information were released, creating a void of “transparency.”
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.”
Incoming Roberta G. Doering Middle School student Jocelyn Fonseca, 10, discussed her preference for the MCAS.
“MCAS tests you on what they expect you to learn in class, not exactly what you learn. I like the open response format of the MCAS, not filling out the bubbles with PARCC. I do not like to be compared with other countries. I prefer to be compared with other states and their tests which are similar to MCAS,” she said.
In addition to speaking with Reminder Publications, Fonseca wrote a letter to the committee, which Rua read during the public hearing on the matter.
“I also do not feel comfortable with the questions where they say bubble in the letters that go with the following. I do not like that because there is more than one correct answer and a student may miss a correct answer. I think MCAS are much better than PARCC. You have the whole day to do MCAS. PARCC is timed and makes me uncomfortable,” she wrote.
Rua was also concerned with the amount of testing associated with PARCC since students were tested in the fall and spring, whereas MCAS testing only takes place once per school year.
When asked if she thought the amount of days was balanced by the fact that the PARCC was timed, equaling less possible testing time than MCAS where students can spend a whole day testing, Rua responded, “It’s still double the test dates.”
Rua commented, “We put our due diligence in.” She and the other committee members spent time researching other Massachusetts school experiences with PARCC, they reviewed the information on the PARCC site, read articles, conducted a workshop and spoke with teachers, parents and students prior to the vote.
She made the motion to conduct a public hearing on the decision. “I wanted to invite the community to speak out. [The committee] didn’t want a vote without hear from the constituents.”