By Chris Maza
GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Local schools will participate in the Commonwealth’s two-year trial to determine whether the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will adopt the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.
Schools in the East Longmeadow, Longmeadow and Hampden-Wilbraham Regional (HWRSD) public school districts will administer the tests beginning in March at certain grade levels and deliver the results back to the state to aid in the process of evaluating the test and making necessary adjustments, according to a Feb. 10 news release from the DESE.
The PARCC assessment aligns with the Common Core standards adopted by the Commonwealth in 2010.
“The academic learning standards we adopted in 2010 are strong, comprehensive, and academically demanding, and we need an equally strong assessment aligned to those standards,” Mitchell D. Chester, DESE commissioner and chair of the PARCC Governing Board, said. ”PARCC promises to provide more accurate measures of the skills that are keys to success after high school. The two-year pilot of PARCC will allow us to build the best test we can and better evaluate whether PARCC could replace our current testing program.”
Approximately 81,000 students, representing 8 percent of the state’s total enrollment in public schools, will take part in the field tests.
The PARCC assessment would replace the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) testing currently administered in public schools. If implemented, the PARCC test would be given to all grade levels from kindergarten to 12th grade, as opposed to the MCAS, which begins in third grade and concludes in 10th grade, provided the student obtains acceptable scores. PARCC testing would also assess writing at grades 3 through 11. MCAS tests writing skills at grades four, seven, and 10.
In East Longmeadow, Mapleshade and Mountain View elementary schools, Birchland Park Middle School and East Longmeadow High School will participate in the pilot program.
“Every school with the exception of Meadow Brook will have at least one class participating in a field test,” East Longmeadow Superintendent Gordon Smith said in a February letter to parents, explaining that the classes were determined randomly through a process developed by the DESE. “Classes that are selected for the pilot are not able to ‘opt out’ of the pilot. The district is required to submit all of its information in the pilot to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.”
A performance-based assessment (PBA) and an end-of-the-year assessment (EOY) will be piloted with computer based and traditional paper and pencil testing.
Two fifth grade classes at Mapleshade will participate in a pair of PBA math assessments on the computer, while two Mountain View fourth grade classes will take part in several English language arts (ELA) computer-based tests – three PBA and two EOA.
Birchland Park will participate in both ELA and math assessments. Two sixth grade classes will take three paper and pencil ELA PBA tests, while a pair of seventh grade classes will be administered two EOY paper and pencil math tests.
Ninth and 11th grade – three and four classes at each respective level – will take computer based ELA tests. Three ninth grade classes will take two EOY tests, while four 11th grade classes will take three PBA tests.
According to the list provided by the DESE, Blueberry Hill School will administer paper tests, while Wolf Swamp School, Williams Middle School and Longmeadow High School will administer online assessments.
Three HWRSD schools – Soule Road School, Thornton Burgess and Wilbraham middle schools – will take pencil and paper assessments. Minnechaug Regional High School will participate in the piloting of the computer-based assessment.
HWRSD will host a public forum regarding the implementation of the PARCC assessment in the Pioneer Valley on March 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Minnechaug. Robert Bickerton, DESE senior associate commissioner for PARCC, and Maureen LaCroix, DESE special assistant to the deputy commissioner for PARCC, will make a presentation and be available to answer questions. Parents and educators from surrounding districts are welcome.
Longmeadow Superintendent Marie Doyle and HWRSD Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea could not be reached for comment or more information on which classes would participate as of press time.