Bay State lawmakers call for dropping federal PARCC test

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BOSTON – A quarter of state legislators urged Education Secretary Jim Peyser and other policymakers to reject federal PARCC academic assessment testing, raising concerns about cost and the readiness of schools to administer the computer-based exam.

Rep. Keiko Orrall, a Lakeville Republican, and Rep. Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge Democrat, spearheaded the effort in advance of a decision the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to make on Nov. 17 on whether to adopt the new national exam, stick with the state’s MCAS tests or pursue a third option.

Peyser and Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester have already signaled their intent to recommend developing an updated version of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, dubbed MCAS 2.0

Forty-eight other lawmakers, including Democrats and Republicans from both the Senate and House of Representatives signed on to the letter from Orrall and Decker.

Orrall and Decker questioned how much it could cost the state to remain in the PARCC Consortium that oversees the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams after 18 of the original 24 participating states have since dropped out. “We need to evaluate why so many other states have opted out. With fewer states participating in the Consortium, the costs will inevitably be higher if we remain in the group,” they wrote.

The lawmakers also said that 25 percent of schools in Massachusetts do not have the required technology to administer the PARCC test, and no guarantees of funding for upgrades have been made potentially forcing some schools to use pencil and paper, which could skew the value of the test as a benchmark for learning progress.

Education leaders have also not yet put a price tag on how much it could cost to revamp the MCAS exam after two-year spent piloting the PARCC test in schools across the state.

Written by Matt Murphy


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