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East Longmeadow Superintendent, Leadership Team to discuss PARCC compromise

Aug. 13, 2014 | Chris Goudreau

EAST LONGMEADOW – The School Committee is considering a switch to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) for students in grades 3 through 5 during the 2014-2015 school year with a focus on the paper and pencil model rather than the online based model for the assessment.

This potential switch, if approved by the committee, will have students in grades 6 through 11 taking the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), said Superintendent of Schools Gordon Smith. The MCAS will remain a high school graduation requirement for upcoming freshman in the class of 2018. 

Previously, the School Committee had decided to table the vote on whether to implement PARCC for lower grade levels during a June meeting, he said.

“Roughly 75 percent of the districts in the Commonwealth did make a decision by June 30,” Smith said. “So, that means 25 percent are similar to us, who have not made a decision.”

Smith said a conference call on Aug. 8 with a representative from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education yielded information that the school district would likely receive its specific requested materials for PARCC if the test is approved at the committee’s Sept. 8 meeting.

If a decision is not made on Sept. 8, the School Committee has the opportunity to vote until Oct. 1. After that date, if a vote has not been taken, the school district will continue with MCAS for the 2014-2015 school year, he said.

Roughly 60 percent of districts in the Commonwealth who have made a decision by June 30 voted to approve PARCC for various grade levels ranging from grades 3 to 11,  Smith said.

According to PARCC’s official website, the assessment is aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and focuses on computer-based or pencil and paper modeled assessments in mathematics and English language arts/ literacy.

“We have nothing tangible right now,” School Committee member Elizabeth Marsian- Boucher said. “We have what ifs and maybes and ‘something’s coming’ and ‘we’re not sure’ but all I know is our seventh, eighth, ninth, and sixth graders have to pass the MCAS whether its aligned with Common Core or however it is and that’s how I feel.”

At the beginning of the School Committee’s meeting on Monday night, the main discussion between members was for adopting PARCC for grades 3 through 8. During the meeting, committee members made a compromise to look into the possibility of implementing PARCC for grades 3 through 5 instead.

Smith said he will discuss the School Committee’s idea of adopting PARCC for grades 3 through 5 on Aug. 20 with the East Longmeadow School District Leadership Team, which consists of all school principals, all assistant principals, student support services and the curriculum director.

A PARCC pilot test was taken throughout the school district during the 2013-2014 school year for a limited number of classrooms in grades 5 through 11, he said. Students were tested with the computer based assessment and the pencil and paper model.

The results of all PARCC pilot tests in the Commonwealth have not been made public, he said.

“There’s something new coming, they haven’t guaranteed that it’s going to be PARCC, they said maybe it’s going to be PARCC,” School Committee member William Fonseca said. “They may tweak it with all these results, we don’t know that yet. I want to see our kids ready to take it.”

The future of state standardized testing in the Commonwealth will be voted on in the fall of 2015 by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Smith said.

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