AMESBURY — The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is coming to Massachusetts and Amesbury has been selected as a field test site next month.
“We have to do this to see if this is going to be a better tool than the current MCAS to assess the Common Core,” said Superintendent Michele Robinson.
Intended to replace the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, PARCC is an online assessment that will require that school districts adapt not only to the new test, but also to upgrade from pen and pencil to computers.
“It’s a good opportunity I think for us to have some of our students at least get exposed to this new PARCC test,” said Lyn Griffin, director of Assessment and Accountability for the Amesbury Public Schools. “Because it is much harder than the MCAS, and to have students test via the computer, it gives them good exposure to that.”
The field test will begin directly after the MCAS takes place in March and should be done by the end of the month. Depending on the district’s technology, the schools taking part in the field test will either take a paper test, a computer-based test or, in the case of Amesbury, both. Third-graders at Cashman Elementary School will take the computer-based PARCC, as well as the fourth-graders at Amesbury Elementary School and the seventh-graders at Amesbury Middle School. The Integrated Math classes at Amesbury High School will be testing using traditional pen and paper.
But with both tests running this year, the classes picked for the field test will do double duty. Fearing that their accountability levels for the MCAS could be negatively impacted, Amesbury and many other school districts have decided, at least for this year, to go ahead and double-test.
“We’re trying to mitigate impact as much as we can because we don’t support double-testing,” Robinson said. “Ninety percent of the schools in Massachusetts are going through the same thing. They are trying to find ways to mitigate over-testing of their students.”
Robinson added that the district worked hard to reduce the number of students taking both tests and that sophomores will not take the PARCC.
“There is a lot of pressure for our kids when taking these tests, especially for the sophomores,” Robinson said. “This is such a defining test assessment for them. Let’s not put more on top of that with the PARCC. And the state recognized that.”
Although currently in a two-year transition phase, the state has yet to make the decision on whether to switch from the MCAS to the PARCC and Amesbury might make the switch back next year.
“This year, they are doing a pilot to test the validity of questions,” Griffin said. “So the scores aren’t going to negatively impact the students. For those districts that volunteered for it, this year it is mandatory. Next year, it is optional. They will allow us to either do the MCAS or the PARCC. This year, we have to do both.”
Another concern for the district is having the right technology for the PARCC. Internet capability is a citywide issue in Amesbury; but, at least for the field test, Robinson said the schools will cope.
“We’ve been doing work since we’ve been notified to get our bandwidth up to do this test without causing disruption for students,” Robinson said. “We are working on it on the town side as well. This is a big test.”