Two States Delay Fully Implementing PARCC

parccTwo states last week made moves to address Common Core concerns, specifically the implementation of the PARCC assessment.

Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White announced a 10-year plan which would do the following:

  • Test scheduling.  The state will propose that in 2015 students take the PARCC test in grades 3 to 8 (online in grades 5-8; paper in grades 3 and 4).  However, to allow schools and districts more time to learn the new expectations, Louisiana high schools will not transition to PARCC in 2015.
  • School accountability.  School letter grades will be assigned on a curved distribution in 2014 and 2015, so that the starting point is fair and transparent prior to the 10-year escalation.
  • Teacher accountability. For 2014 and 2015, the state will not produce "value-added data" because there will be no baseline for calculating the scores. Compass and related compensation tenure policies will remain in effect, but there will be no requirement that student learning scores be based on value-added data. 
  • Student accountability.  In 2014 and 2015, the state will maintain current 4th grade promotion policies, but the proposal allows districts to issue waivers for students demonstrating readiness to progress.  The state will also shift the 8th grade retention policy to be a remediation policy, proposing that remediation take place on the high school campus in a "transitional 9th grade" year.

So this addresses implementation, but to be clear this does not repeal or stop the implementation of the Common Core.  It simply slows it down.

Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell Chester, announced a “two-year test drive” for PARCC.

On Tuesday, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved my recommendation for a two-year transition plan to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). My recommendation reflects direct feedback I have heard from superintendents, principals, teachers, and school committee members about the importance of pacing ourselves so schools can implement PARCC and other reform initiatives in a thoughtful manner. If we had adhered to the timetable that we anticipated three years ago, we would be administering MCAS tests for the last time this spring (2014) before adopting PARCC as the state’s new testing program. With the Board’s action this week, though, Massachusetts educators and students will have a chance to "test drive" PARCC for two years.

PARCC is designed to build on the strengths of our current testing program and add additional features. These include more open-ended, performance-based tasks to better measure students’ ability to think critically and to apply what they know, as well as the use of innovative technology-based items. Further, at the high school level, PARCC intends to assess a broader range of the skills that employers and colleges report as essential for success after high school. PARCC promises to provide clearer signals to educators and students about the readiness of students for the next grade level and, in high school, for college and career. PARCC also will allow us to produce more timely results for districts and schools to assist educators in planning and tailoring instruction for students in the coming year.

The two-year transition provides for a robust comparison of MCAS and PARCC, so that we can decide in the fall of 2015 whether to sunset the MCAS English language arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments for grades 3-8 and employ PARCC as our state testing program for these subjects beginning in spring 2016. This "test drive" provides two years to compare and contrast MCAS and PARCC, including the content, format, quality, and standards of performance for the two assessments. It also permits us to transition our accountability uses of the assessment results while maintaining trend lines that link back to pre-PARCC performance.

The two-year transition provides teachers and administrators with additional time to refine their implementation of the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in ELA and mathematics, which incorporate the Common Core State Standards, that the State Board adopted in December 2010, as well as to become familiar with new online test administration procedures before any final decision on full-scale implementation of PARCC. We know that not all districts and schools are ready to administer computer-based assessments. The transition period allows us to secure additional funding to ensure that all schools are able to incorporate 21st century learning technologies, including the ability to administer online assessments.

Here is a memo he sent to the Board on the matter.  Again the standards will still be in place, but at least they’re exercising caution in going ahead with PARCC and may ultimately not implement it whereas Louisiana is just delaying the test with apparently no plan to jettison it.

I’m more encouraged by what I see in Massachusetts than Louisiana, but neither state has given us a reason to run victory laps.