Massachusetts Releases PARCC Exam Scores

State officials will vote on whether to adopt the PARCC test at a Nov. 17 meeting

Statewide test scores are out for Massachusetts students who took a new school assessment exam known as PARCC or "Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers."

While students scored, on average, about 8 percent lower than they did on MCAS, education officials seemed encouraged by the test.

"We need to upgrade MCAS, we can't sit on MCAS as it exists, it was a great test, it served us well, we're 18 years into it, it's reached a point of diminished return," Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Secondary and Elementary Education, said.

As the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is about to decide whether to replace MCAS with PARCC, local superintendents like Dr. Dianne Kelly of Revere weighed in on how the testing trial runs are going in their schools.

"PARCC is better than MCAS because the new standards that have actually been implemented for the last four years are much more rigorous and they focus more on critical thinking and the student's ability to apply knowledge in unique situations," Dr. Kelly said.

Dr. Kelly says as one of the first schools to test out PARCC two years ago, the test has acted like a road map for teachers to help better prepare students for college, career and their lives in general.

"It’s okay for our scores to get a little bit worse while we figure out how to give kids the instruction that they need in order to do better in the long term," said Dr. Kelly.

The board does have a third option it is exploring as well, that it has termed MCAS 2.0, which has been described as the PARCC exam with some Massachusetts standards worked in.

"I think in some ways it provides us an opportunity to have the best of both worlds, where we have control of our own destiny, we make decisions that are right and best for Massachusetts while taking advantage of all the work that's been done," Secretary of Education Jim Peyser said.

Some groups, including The Pioneer Institute, are opposed to the PARCC switch.

"MCAS has a proven track record of helping our students raise their achievement levels; PARCC is untested. In fact, states are rejecting PARCC in droves - only six other states, all of them low-performing, remain in the PARCC consortium," Executive Director Jim Stergios said.

The board is expected to vote at its Nov. 17 meeting whether to adopt the PARCC test.

Either way, MCAS remains a graduation requirement through at least the class of 2019. 

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