As most of you know, students in Massachusetts have been tested for proficiency in English Language Arts and Mathematics since 1998 using MCAS. Over the next couple of years, MCAS will very likely be phased out and replaced by a different type of assessment designed to assess student proficiency with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which were adopted as Massachusetts state standards by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2011. Since that time, our K-8 English Language Arts and Math departments have gradually shifted our entire curriculum to align with the Common Core in elementary and middle school.
Last year, some of our schools and classrooms were randomly selected to pilot PARCC, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Based on that experience, and our desire to test our students on the current curriculum, we chose to administer PARCC in all elementary and middle schools this year. Slightly more than half of the districts in Massachusetts made the same choice.
The transition to PARCC requires changes in some of our previous testing routines. In particular, thirteen (13) of our schools chose to test using the computer-based version of PARCC, something we have not done before.
The first round of PARCC testing begins March 16th and runs through April 10th, with five (5) testing sessions in that five (5) week window. The second round of PARCC testing runs from May 4th through May 21st, with three (3) testing sessions in three (3) weeks. The exact dates will vary by school and grade. Fifth and eighth graders will also take the Science MCAS in May.
Student, school and district test results will be reported similarly to MCAS, and we will analyze our performance as we do with all student learning assessments. We have worked diligently to align our curriculum to the new standards, to deliver additional resources to teachers, to refine our instructional strategies, and to provide additional support to students as necessary.
The PARCC assessment will be one measure of the outcome of our work, and we will make adjustments to our curriculum and instruction in response to student performance, as we do with all assessments. Despite the proliferation of state and federal testing, we will continue our focus on improving teaching and learning in the Newton Public Schools.
Obviously, this is a tremendous undertaking and will require a great deal of effort and communication with staff and parents. More information about the PARCC assessment is
available on the Newton Public Schools website at www.newton.k12.ma.us/PARCC
Many thanks for your understanding and support. We will be sure to keep you well informed during this time of transition.
Superintendent of Schools