Ed board backs MCAS 2.0 plan for new standardized tests

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2015/11/17/ed-board-backs-mcas-2-0-plan-for-new-standardized-tests/

MALDEN – Bay State education policymakers voted Tuesday to create an MCAS 2.0 standardized testing program that combines elements of the multi-state PARCC exam and the current Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System by 2017.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education backed Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester’s recommendation to come up with a “next-generation” assessment program that builds off both MCAS, which has been given to Massachusetts students for about 20 years, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers system for student evaluations.

Constructing a hybrid model was approved on an 8-3 vote.

Before the vote, members said they appreciated that the hybrid would let the state keep its autonomy and that they hoped teachers would be involved in building the new test.

After months of debate over whether Massachusetts public schools should continue to administer its MCAS test or switch to PARCC, the test developed by a consortium of states to align to the federal Common Core curriculum, Chester last week recommended a third route, calling it MCAS 2.0, that takes a middle ground between the two exams. His recommended “next-generation MCAS” would draw from PARCC and MCAS, as well as incorporating new test items developed specifically for Massachusetts. The board sets policy for elementary and secondary schools in the state.

“I would argue that what we have in front of us today is actually a direct response to some of the concerns that we heard, from the public, from superintendents and from quite frankly the business community,” board member Katherine Craven said of Chester’s proposal.

Board chairman Paul Sagan said neither test was perfect, but the hybrid model would allow Massachusetts to combine the best of both, maintain control over the test and capitalize on the investments already made in developing PARCC.

Under Chester’s recommendation, the new test is scheduled to be administered beginning in spring 2017, with schools giving the test via computer by 2019.

Some members expressed concern that a new test would be difficult to refine and roll out in less than two years.

“I’m in favor of doing this, I just do not think it can be done in the timeframe that we’re talking about,” said Suffolk University President Margaret McKenna.

Written by Katie Lannan