By Mitch Evans
School Committee discussed the potential roll-out of the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) examination system at their May 27 meeting. There is a possibility that these new tests for grades K-12 will eventually replace the existing Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), which has been in use since 1998.
The PARCC exam has been created using the Common Core, a new set of federal standards in English language arts and mathematics. It is felt to be a better assessment of a student’s preparedness for the next grade level, and in the later grades, their college and career readiness. This new computer based test will incorporate more open-ended questions which will help to test students’ problem solving skills, their ability to relate what they have learned and their higher level thinking. Due to the online nature of PARCC, results can be obtained within weeks, not months, and it is hoped that these faster results will assist educators in planning and tailoring instruction for their students in the coming year.
Our school district is in the first year of a two year drive to pilot PARCC. As you may be aware, some Bedford children took the new PARCC exams earlier this year. While the scores from these new tests were not recorded, the clarity and quality of the questions and the implementation of the technology within the schools is being examined.
Superintendent Jon Sills is currently reviewing the options available for Bedford’s schools and has until June 30 to notify the Department of Education of our district’s plans for the next academic year. According to Sills, the state won’t decide whether to halt the MCAS in favor of the PARCC exam until the fall of 2015. That said, the current 10th graders will continue with the MCAS format until 2016, regardless of the decision of the schools. The science MCAS, taken at the high school level, will also remain in place through at least 2016.
PARCC will be discussed again at the next School Committee Meeting on Tuesday, June 3. Should you wish to attend, it will be held in the large instruction room at Bedford High School beginning at 7:30 pm.
More information on PARCC is available at https://www.doe.mass.edu/parcc/.