Consortium website provides information on new assessment system for students

The MCAS tests have been such a huge part of the education landscape in Massachusetts since they were first administered in 1998 that it’s hard to imagine that in a few years, they may be replaced by a national assessment currently being developed by a 23-state consortium.

Massachusetts is a member of that consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

PARCC released its first set of item and task prototypes in August at PARCC is an online assessment designed to be administered at different points throughout the school year.

The first round of testing is scheduled for 2014-2015.

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester told educators attending MTA’s Summer Conference in August that no decision will be made about whether to use PARCC instead of MCAS until districts have had an opportunity to experience the new system.

In a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education press release issued that month, Chester said, “The prototypes are a first step in demonstrating what is possible with new assessment technology that captures students’ application of knowledge and skills that are essential to success in the 21st century.”

A major goal of PARCC is to determine student progress toward being college- or career-ready by the end of high school.

In order to make the national Common Core frameworks more accessible and user friendly, PARCC has developed a searchable online version of the Model Content Frameworks. The site includes a search browser, an online glossary and direct references back to the standards. These materials are also available at

The conservative Pioneer Institute is the most vocal critic in Massachusetts of the Common Core and has already come out against the state possibly replacing MCAS with PARCC, even though the PARCC system is still under development. Chester — who is chair of the PARCC Governing Board — has said that the Common Core is based on the state’s frameworks, and the standards are as high or higher than those in the frameworks.

--This article first appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of MTA Today.