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Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

PARCC - It's Coming.......

Two presentations at the MASC Conference were related to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Here are some notes:

* PARCC is to the Common Core State Standards as MCAS is to the former Massachusetts curriculum frameworks except that PARCC will be computer-based. It was "developed in response to concerns of educators, parents, and employers who want assessments that better measure students' critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and their ability to communicate clearly."#

* ELA will look different from MCAS in that it will more carefully assess writing and critical-thinking. Math will look different from MCAS in that students will solve problems and show how they solved them.

* Unlike MCAS results that are announced in the fall, PARCC results are expected to be announced in the spring so that student needs can be considered earlier.

* How will it be better for students entering MA public colleges and universities?  Now, students are expected to take a test called Accuplacer which measures competency levels in math and language, and helps schools find the corresponding college level for students - but it doesn't necessarily measure what was happening in the high school's curriculum. PARCC is aligned with the curriculum and when administered, students scoring a 4 or higher will be considered college-ready and won't need to take competency tests (like Accuplacer) - they will already be considered college-ready. The expectation is that students will come better prepared for college, spend less time and money on remedial courses for which they must pay but for which they won't gain credits toward their degree, and as a result, complete their degree in the most efficient way possible. (According to Complete College America from 2012, 90% of community college students placed in remedial courses fail to get a 2-year degree within 3 years and 49% of state university and UMASS students in remedial courses fail to get a 4-year degree within 6 years.)

* The test is computer-based and is designed to engage students in problem-solving with colors, movement on the screen, etc. - something like the graphics that our students are used to.

* Concerns: Where will we get the money/training/infrastructure for this exam? How will we integrate this test when there are so many other things we are doing (Common Core curriculum; changing the way teachers are trained to help English Language Learners; making sure our teachers are evaluated fairly, regularly, and given support to help them improve; etc.)?

* Want to know more? Check out http://www.parcconline.org/

* In Melrose we are scheduled to field test PARCC in a number of schools but the final school and grade list isn't out yet. There are many other unknowns since the state is still making final decisions and rolling them out to districts. Supt. Taymore is following these developments closely and will keep us posted.......

    # noted from the PARCC web site as referenced above.