The Medford Public Schools, with the approval of the Medford School Committee, has decided to administer the PARCC test this year rather than continue with the MCAS test. The Massachusetts Board of Education has reworked the MCAS and re-named it MCAS 2.0.
About mandated testing
How does this change impact Medford Public School Students? Since 1998, all students in public and charter schools in Massachusetts have been required, in grades 3-10, to take a state test called MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System). The test is for English and Mathematics for grades 3-10 and science for grades 5, 8. As of 2003, in order to receive a high school diploma, students must pass the high school level exams.
About the new test, PARCC
For the past few years, a new test called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) was developed for states that adopted the Common Core. In November of 2015, the Massachusetts Board of Education voted NOT to adopt PARCC but to revise the MCAS exam and re-name it MCAS 2.0. This test will be administered to students for the first time in 2017.
This year, all school districts were given the choice to remain with the MCAS or to select the PARCC test to administer to their students. Medford decided to administer the PARCC test, as questions on the new MCAS 2.0 will more likely resemble questions on the PARCC test rather than the old MCAS test. Therefore, Medford will utilize the PARCC test this year to help prepare students for MCAS 2.0. However, please be aware that for 2016, grade 10 students, and for all science exams, (grades 5, 8 & high school) MCAS remains the only option for those students. More information about the test will be forthcoming from each school’s principal. PARCC has a website at www.parcconline.org, if parents would like to familiarize themselves with this exam.
Accommodations and other details
Parents should be advised that MCAS testing accommodations and PARCC testing accommodations differ slightly for students with IEP and English language learners. For example, unlike the MCAS tests, PARCC tests are timed. Students must finish their test within a time limit, but students with disabilities and English language learners may have until the end of the school day, (“extended time”) to finish each PARCC test. If the Team agrees that he or she needs this accommodation, extended time will be added to the IEP.
In addition, a graphic organizer or individualized math reference sheet are not allowed. PARCC test policies do not allow any student to use a graphic organizer or individualized math reference sheet, including students with disabilities. Even if a child’s IEP lists the use of these tools on state or district-wide assessments, they will not be allowed on PARCC test. The reasoning behind this is that PARCC and MCAS test questions are quite different. The graphic organizers and individual reference sheets used for MCAS will not be useful and my lead students to give the wrong answers on PARCC tests. For PARCC testing, all students will be given a blank sheet of paper and can draw a graphic organizer from memory. All students in grades 5 and higher will get a “standard’ math reference sheet.
During January, school based Teams will review accommodations that are part of each student’s IEP. Parents will be notified of any need for an IEP amendment prior to the spring PARCC test dates.
In addition, the Medford Public Schools will offer a series of parent information sessions over the next several months to review the PARCC assessment process and explain how students will be prepared to participate in the PARCC exams process. If you should have any questions regarding these rules, please contact the special education office at your student’s school.
For more information, please see the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website.