Sunday, December 6, 2015

Introducing MCAS 2.0

On November 17, 2015 the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education made the decision to support the recommendation of the Commissioner of Education to move forward with a next generation MCAS test for all students, MCAS 2.0.

For the past two years Massachusetts has been “test-driving” a new assessment called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) which measures student performance on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  These are the standards on which Massachusetts modeled its 2011 Frameworks in Mathematics and English Language Arts. 

This next-generation assessment allows the state to retain control over the content of the questions and many elements of the test while also utilizing much of the PARCC tool that a Massachusetts team of PARCC fellows helped to build. 

The decision calls for online testing for all students in 2019 with a plan to help schools and districts improve their technology infrastructure in the meantime.  In order to best prepare for the next generation assessment, which is still in development, many districts in Massachusetts will be taking the PARCC assessment in 2016 for grades 3-8.  Schools will be able to choose computer- or paper-based assessment for the format of the test.

So what does this mean for North Reading?

       Having experienced PARCC in 2014 and 2015, North Reading students and educators are better prepared for the PARCC in 2016 and the style of the next generation MCAS in the future as all indications that this assessment will resemble PARCC in many ways.
       Computer-based testing is challenging in that it is an entirely new mode of test-taking for many students.  As we transition to all students using computers in 2019 we should understand the significance of this variable for students.
       Students in grades 3-8 in North Reading will take PARCC for ELA and Mathematics.  Grade 10 students will take MCAS in the spring of 2016.
       Science in grades 5, 8, and high school will also still be MCAS
       Students taking the Alternative MCAS (MCAS Alt.) and the ACCESS test for English Language Learners will continue to take those assessments
       Districts and schools taking PARCC 3-8 will be “held harmless” in terms of accountability during this time of transition.  This means that a level one school will remain level one and that a level two school can only move up.
       Low participation rates can negatively impact a school’s accountability level (example: move down from level one to level two if participation rates are too low)

North Reading educators in grades 3-9 will continue to look at data from the 2015 PARCC assessment in order to better understand the needs of our students and also the effectiveness of our curriculum.  As PARCC is a developing assessment there are many improvements that are still needed in order to make that assessment, or a next generation MCAS, meaningful for our students, teachers, and the entire school community.  Our district will continue to collect feedback from all stakeholders in order to have a voice in the conversation about the development of state assessments in order to create the best possible outcome for our students.

Up-to-date information about student assessments can always be found on our district website on the Assistant Superintendent’s page.