Why the MTA Opposes PARCC

The MTA Board of Directors voted on June 20, 2015, to oppose adoption of the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — PARCC — tests in English language arts and mathematics. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to vote on the issue on Nov. 17. Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester has not yet announced what he is planning to recommend, though he has long expressed support for PARCC as chair of the PARCC Consortium Governing Board.

The MTA supports a three-year moratorium on using standardized tests for high-stakes purposes and believes that the excessive focus on testing has driven education in the wrong direction. Within the context of that larger objective, the MTA is specifically opposed to PARCC. The rationale for the opposition was spelled out, as follows, in the New Business Item that was approved on June 20:

  • The MTA is committed to fighting the inappropriate use of standardized testing and to a moratorium on high-stakes testing. If the [Board] of Elementary and Secondary Education adopts the PARCC exam, it will be more difficult to win this battle. MCAS, while certainly problematic, is nonetheless a Massachusetts assessment tool. If the BESE adopts PARCC, the MTA would be in the position of having to fight against a national consortium. This would diminish our voices and our power.
  • PARCC assessments are still very much in flux: They have not yet been benchmarked, and there are questions about the quality of the questions and whether they are developmentally appropriate.
  • While we are using both paper and pencil and computer-based versions, PARCC will not provide reliable measures. Massachusetts should not adopt an assessment tool that, in effect, requires us to use Massachusetts’ schoolchildren as a laboratory for test development.
  • Because the PARCC assessments are computer-based, adopting PARCC shifts the costs of administering the assessments onto local districts, which must upgrade their technological infrastructure in order to administer the assessments. Meanwhile, Pearson [the test developer] realizes substantial profits.
  • PARCC, in the form being piloted now, already requires more testing time. Because PARCC will only release a limited number of test questions, it will be more difficult to prepare students to take the test; therefore, there will be pressure on districts to also administer formative assessments earlier in the year to prepare for the spring PARCC assessments.
  • PARCC assessments themselves are questionable measures of the Common Core standards. We should decouple the adoption of the Mass. Common Core Standards from the adoption of a new and unproven assessment system. Linking the adoption of those standards to the PARCC system undermines our ability to independently assess the value and efficacy of those standards.
  • PARCC, in short, is the next step in standardized testing. We should not be taking that step.

The NBI was submitted by Michael Zilles, president of the Newton Teachers Association, and seconded by Jackie Lawrence, president of the Somerville Teachers Association.