to succeed in states with fewer resources and lower
levels of educational attainment.
The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment
System tests have already begun to incorporate items
that reflect the new standards, but the real measure
will come if and when the state fully adopts a new
assessment being developed by the Partnership for
Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
PARCC is a consortium of 18 states plus the
District of Columbia that is developing a system
to measure mastery of the Common Core. Another
25 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands are backing
a different assessment developed by the Smarter
Balanced Assessment Consortium.
PARCC is being field tested in Massachusetts
and most other PARCC states this spring. PARCC
has two required parts, a Performance Based
Assessment administered in March and April
and an End of Year Assessment administered in
May and June. Sample items can be found at
Approximately 15 percent of students in 1,300
schools and 340 districts in Massachusetts will take
different parts of the test this spring. Students who
take the longer PBA section will not have to take the
MCAS as well.
This field test is designed to help the test makers
create appropriate items and to work out issues with
test administration. PARCC is designed as an online
tool to assess the kinds of higher-order thinking
that Hanson, of Arlington, talked about. Like Jette’s
Lowell mills project, some test items will include
audio or video segments along with written texts.
“It’s a 21st-century assessment,” said Jeff
Nellhaus, a former education official from
Massachusetts who is now heading up development
of PARCC for Achieve, an organization based in
Washington, D.C., that convenes leaders from across
states to tackle common challenges.
Nellhaus acknowledged that many schools do
not have enough computers and Internet bandwidth
to allow all students to take the test online.
“We recognize that not everyone’s going to be
ready in the 2014-2015 school year to administer the
test online, so we’re going to have paper versions as
well,” he said. “By the third year we’re hoping that the
vast majority of schools will be able to do this online.”
Nellhaus said that the field test will help the
developers determine whether students perform
better on the paper or online version and start setting
Asked about how quickly PARCC results
will be useful for purposes of school and district
accountability and educator evaluations, Nellhaus said
those are decisions that have to be made state by state.
The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and
Secondary Education is expected to vote in the late
fall of 2015 on whether to replace the MCAS with
PARCC. The BESE voted on Nov. 19 to implement
the following transition schedule:
n Spring 2014:: Field test PARCC.
n Spring 2015: Districts choose whether to
administer PARCC or MCAS. Students will take one
test or the other, but not both.
n Spring 2016: If adopted, PARCC is
administered to students in grades three to eight
statewide. The Grade 10 MCAS test will be used as
a graduation requirement at least through the class of
While policymakers and education advocates are
already grappling with the implications of changing
the state’s entire assessment system, most classroom
teachers are like Arlington’s Jette, who is working
double-time to teach the new standards and comply
with a multitude of other mandates and initiatives.
She is glad her class will be field testing one of
the PARCC assessments in the spring.
“That will be a good opportunity for us to get a
sense of it,” Jette said. “But I’m not really thinking
about PARCC yet. I have too much else to do.”
Teachers prepare for field test of PARCC system
Continued from previous page
By Scott McLennan
A bout two dozen children — none older than 5, some just infants — spend their
days at the Wonder Years child care
and education center, learning about
a world that is still fresh to them.
Some work on puzzles, others grapple
with new vocabulary words, and
a few let their creativity loose by
Located on a tree-lined residential
street in Dorchester, the center is the
very picture of stability and nurturing.
In reality, though, it exists in a world
in which independently owned early
education centers catering to families
with low and moderate incomes
struggle to stay open even though their
waiting lists are growing.
Sharon Jones, who owns the
Wonder Years and is a part owner of
two other centers, offers a sentiment
also heard at many other early
education centers that work with
families receiving state subsidies: “We
are happy to have good regulations; we
just want a voice in setting up those
Educators, child care center
directors and owners across the state
have formed the Massachusetts Early
Childhood Educators Union and
are behind a bill that would help it
become a providers’ organization.
Cathy Harris works with Maliyah Clarke, left, and Ayden Kyle, both 1, at
the Wonder Years education and child care center in Dorchester.
Photo by Scot McLennan
MECEU affiliates are independently
owned centers where at least 10
percent of the children receive
The MECEU would improve the
quality of early learning and child
care by negotiating directly with the
state on issues such as voucher rates,
regulations and reimbursements.
MTA President Paul Toner said
the need for a collective voice of
early education providers is readily
“We believe that when it comes
to improving the direct care and
education provided to young children,
there is no better source of expertise
than those who do the work with them
every day,” he said.
“An Act to Improve Quality in
Early Education Centers” (House
Bill 477/Senate Bill 223) is a key
legislative priority of the MTA. The
MTA and the NEA have joined with
the American Federation of Teachers
and AFT Massachusetts, which are
affiliated with the AFL-CIO, in support
of the legislation.
State Senator Sal DiDomenico
and Representative Jeffrey Sánchez
are sponsoring the legislation, which
was slated for a public hearing before
the Joint Committee on Public Service
on Nov. 25, as MTA Today went to
Please turn to Providers’/Page 20