Study knocks PARCC, recommends keeping MCAS and improving it
BOSTON >> With a report out Tuesday labeling the new PARCC exams a flawed measure of college readiness, the Pioneer Institute has joined the wave of calls for Massachusetts to develop its own assessment program.
The Board of Elementary and Education is slated to vote next month on whether the state should switch to the PARCC exam, developed by a national consortium of which Massachusetts is a member, or continue to use the MCAS test in place since the 1990s.
After Gov. Charlie Baker said this month he wanted an assessment system adopted that would let Massachusetts "control our own destiny," Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and Education Secretary Jim Peyser floated the concept of new, state-developed "MCAS 2.0."
The Pioneer Institute, a critic of both PARCC and the Common Core curriculum standards on which the test is based, is recommending an updated version of the MCAS system as the test of choice, "on the condition that the responsibility for developing and administering K-12 standards and tests be assigned to an organization in Massachusetts independent of DESE and the state's education schools."
"The research leads us to support keeping MCAS and making it an even better test," Pioneer executive director Jim Stergios said in a statement. "We are all for an MCAS 2.0, but that means pre-2011 MCAS should be the starting point for new assessments and test items, not PARCC."
Pioneer's report comes a day after 18 Massachusetts educators, including the school superintendents of Boston, Worcester, New Bedford and Revere and the heads of several charter schools, sent a letter to the education board calling PARCC a "superior assessment" and the best option for lowering the rate of students who graduate high school but still require remedial coursework in higher education.
Authors of the Pioneer report say they found a series of flaws with PARCC, writing that the tests require too many instructional hours to administer without providing educators with enough information to justify the time and cost.
The report also says that the PARCC writing prompts do not elicit the type of writing done in college or work environments, that the questions "do not use student-friendly language," and that the computerized testing system has not "shown more effectiveness than a paper-and-pencil based testing system."
Writing that neither PARCC nor MCAS sufficiently gauge college and career readiness or eligibility for a high school diploma, the authors call for a test that is more academically rigorous, less costly, and more informative about individual student performance than the PARCC exams.
A recent study carried out by Mathematica Policy Research for the state Executive Office of Education found that both PARCC and MCAS predicted college success on a comparable level, but that the PARCC math standards were slightly better predictors of higher-level college performance.
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