March 17, 2014
Eric M. Conti, Ph.D
Superintendent of Schools
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I am writing today to make you aware of some proposed changes in the way your child will be assessed on his or her academic content knowledge and skills. Our district, along with every other district in Massachusetts, has been implementing new academic standards across all subject areas - the Common Core Standards. These new standards are part of our district’s education plan to help your child excel and be fully prepared for success beyond our doors.
These new academic goals will help ensure that all students are prepared to succeed— whether success is moving to the next grade in school or graduating to college, career training, or the workplace. These standards challenge our students to develop a deeper understanding of subject matter, learn how to think critically, and apply what they are learning to the real world.
A shift to new, higher standards means that the statewide testing program must shift as well. This spring, students across our district will be “field testing” a new test called The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, in English language arts and mathematics. The purpose of the field test is to determine whether the PARCC test questions are fair and are measuring what they are intended to measure. While mandatory, the PARCC field test scores will not count and students taking the field test will not receive information about how they performed on the test questions. The field test will; however, provide students with a new, computer-based testing experience—one that they are likely to encounter again in the near future. The PARCC Field Test is given in the same grades as MCAS in English language arts and mathematics. This schedule also means that students will not take the MCAS except in science in grades 5, 8, and high school. High School students will still need to take their MCAS tests to earn a diploma and qualify for the Adams’ Scholarships.
If your child has MCAS test accommodations listed in his or her IEP or 504 plan, then he or she is entitled to take the field test with those same accommodations. Since students will be taking PARCC field tests online, many of the accommodation(s); however, will be different on a computer. A part of the field test is for the district to learn how MCAS accommodations will be adapted to the PARCC environment. We will be conducting focus groups with students and teachers after the test to learn whether the computer-based accommodations were effective. If your child participates in the MCAS alternate assessment (MCAS-Alt), he or she will not participate in the PARCC field test.
I am committed to keeping you informed about these new tests. We will be updating information regularly on my blog - www.ericconti.wordpress.com and on the Burlington created blog - www.massparcctrial.org. We are having a PARCC parent night on Tuesday, March 18th at 7:00 PM in the Marshall Simonds Middle School Library. We will have opportunities for you to attempt some practice questions on the computer and to ask about the PARCC test.
Eric M. Conti, Ph.D.