PARCC Assessments Have Not Caused “Academic Deterioration” in Massachusetts

PARCC assessments, along with Common Core State Standards, have caused an “academic deterioration” in Massachusetts, Gregory Sullivan, a research director at the Pioneer Institute, alleges in an opinion piece published by the Gloucester Times. “Over the long term, stemming the commonwealth’s decline will require restoring state English and math standards to their pre-Common Core academic quality.”

Contrary to Sullivan’s suggestion that PARCC assessments lower the bar for students, several recent studies conclude they are an improvement over many states’ previous exams—including Massachusetts’.

Research by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY), which invited 23 State Teacher of the Year Award recipients and finalists to compare PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments to several states’ old tests, reached unanimous agreement that the consortia tests marked a step up in five key areas. “I can say with confidence these new assessments are the kind we should want our kids to take,” wrote Pam Reilly, an Illinois Teacher of the Year and a participant in the study.

Likewise, a reports by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and HumRRO conclude that PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests more closely align with states’ Common Core Standards, giving parents and teachers better information about student readiness—better even than Massachusetts’ MCAS tests. “They are, in fact, the kind of tests that many teachers have asked state officials to build for years,” a summary of the report notes.

A recent follow-up analysis by Achieve to its Honesty Gap study last year also finds that by implementing high-quality assessments states have begun closing discrepancies between state-reported proficiency rates and those identified by NAEP. Massachusetts was recognized as a “Top Truth Teller” in 2015 for achieving proficiency rates that closely align with NAEP.

That is likely why Massachusetts education officials have reiterated their commitment to Common Core State Standards and high-quality student assessments. Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has indicated PARCC will remain a “substantial component” of the commonwealth’s tests. He also clarified last year: “[The national media has] inaccurately described Massachusetts as ‘abandoning’ the Common Core and PARCC. We have not abandoned either one.”