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School district chooses PARCC

Date: 6/27/2014

WEST SPRINGFIELD – The School Committee decided to become a Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) school district with a vote of 6 to 1.
During its regular meeting on June 24, the committee chose to implement the PARCC testing in place of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests for grades three through eight in the 2015 school year. The members will vote on whether to use the paper or online PARCC format at a later date, prior to the start of the coming school year.
“I’d like to be the school district that tests the waters,” Michelle Serafino, committee member, said, adding that she hopes other districts would look to West Springfield for assistance when implementing PARCC.
Member Joey Sutton voted against the change. His main concerns were the duration of testing and the possibility of “leaving behind” students who do not test well in timed conditions.
Member Nancy Farrell addressed the timed testing atmosphere. She explained that while MCAS testing took place over four or five days, all students had the option to spend the entire day on the material. In contrast, the PARCC format takes place over nine days, but is limited in the amount of time a student can spend completing the section.
Farrell noted that students with individualized education plans (IEP) are allowed more time if dictated within the IEP. She said classroom learning is interrupted more so by the MCAS because the entire day of lessons could be halted if students spend the entire day testing.
“Basically, a student without a diagnosed IEP we’re just leaving behind,” Sutton retorted.
“We did not find that to be the case,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Russell Johnston replied. He said that no complaints “along those lines” were reported during the pilot testing of PARCC.
Johnston recommended the district adopt PARCC based upon the fact that the schools’ curriculum is more “closely aligned” with the PARCC material than the MCAS.
According to Johnston, the school district will assess its Wi-Fi and Chromebook resources to determine if the online version of PARCC can be implemented at the middle school level. He believes it’s a possibility. The high school already has the needed tools to support the online version of PARCC once the test is implemented at that level.
“PARCC is aligned to Common Core Standards,” Johnston said, noting that high school seniors would continue taking the MCAS until 2018 to qualify for graduation. He stated that during the first year, schools would be “held harmless” and their level rankings would not change during the transition in the case that scores differed greatly from previous MCAS tests. West Springfield is currently a Level 3 district. If implemented, the MCAS testing would cease.
Member Dr. Jose Irizarry read an email from state Sen. James Welch that informed the committee of a $38 billion bond bill that is part of the state budget would enable the school district to apply for the money needed to implement Wi-Fi access at all schools.
The funds would become accessible and the application process defined once the state budget is passed.