For Immediate Release - September 02, 2010

Massachusetts to Lead National Effort to Develop Next Generation Assessment

Work Will Build on State's Record of Success in Improving Student Achievement

MALDEN - Massachusetts will play a leadership role in a multi-state consortium awarded federal Race to the Top funding today to develop new and more rigorous assessment systems designed to measure college and career readiness, while remaining committed to maintaining high standards and expectations and strengthening the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester chairs the governing board of the 26-state Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), which received $170 million today to develop a next-generation assessment system. These new tests will be aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics. Massachusetts helped to develop the Common Core standards and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to adopt them in July, after concluding that the standards were more demanding than the state's existing frameworks.



"These 26 states came together to develop a grades K-12 system that employs 'best in class' testing features and identifies whether students are on-track for success at the next level, including college and career readiness," Chester said. "My goal will be to develop assessments that are internationally benchmarked, thus setting a high bar, while providing teachers with better feedback on student progress throughout the school year. That said, if the PARCC assessments are not stronger than MCAS, we will not hesitate to walk away."



Throughout the development process, Massachusetts will continue to administer the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams to measure student achievement, assess the strength of schools and districts, design targeted support and as a graduation requirement for students.



As head of PARCC's governing board, Chester will lead the efforts to ensure that the assessments developed are more rigorous and challenging than Massachusetts' current assessment program in English language arts and mathematics and build in the high expectations and strong accountability already established in Massachusetts. The new assessment system will be developed and field tested over the next four years, and will have no immediate impact on the Commonwealth's current assessment program.



The goal of PARCC is to create an assessment system that will ensure students graduate from high school college- and career-ready. The proposed assessment system will be computer-based and will measure student progress at key times during the school year, rather than on one paper-and-pencil test, allowing for instructional adjustment and extra support to students as needed. To ensure college and career alignment, nearly 200 higher education systems and institutions in PARCC states have agreed to help develop the new high school tests.



The 11 governing states that will lead PARCC in assessment development are: Arizona, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee. The other participating states are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Florida will serve as PARCC's fiscal agent, and Washington, D.C.-based Achieve, Inc. will play a key role in coordinating the work of the Partnership.