Massachusetts Charts a Course towards High-Quality Student Assessments

The decision by Massachusetts education officials to develop a hybrid student assessment that will incorporate elements of both PARCC and MCAS was made under pressure from Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, who wanted to effectively keep PARCC under a new name, the Lowell Sun editorial alleges.

“Chester…threw two carrots Lowell’s way to sweeten the pot,” the editorial board claims. The result is “PARCC, just without the polarizing name…[The change] will cost several million dollars. Just think what the collective price will be?”

As Karen Nussle articulates in a memo following the Massachusetts State Board of Education’s vote, the decision to pursue a hybrid assessment “will establish a next-generation, hybrid assessment as a way to update the state’s 18-year-old test and move forward with a new, higher-quality test for its students…States are making changes to ensure that the new high-quality assessments meet their needs.”

The decision reaffirms Massachusetts’ commitment to rigorous academic expectations and high-quality student assessments. “[The national media has] inaccurately described Massachusetts as ‘abandoning’ the Common Core and PARCC. We have not abandoned either one,” education commissioner Mitchell Chester clarified in the New York Times.

Contrary to the Lowell Sun editorial’s claims, Massachusetts is pursuing the hybrid option to ensure state assessments meet students’ needs and provide parents and teachers with accurate information. Jim Cowen, deputy director of the Collaborative for Student Success, writes that claims otherwise unnecessarily politicize decisions about rigorous standards and honest assessments, which “only hurts our students.”