hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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June 26, 2014

Schools to phase out MCAS

Computer-based testing system OK'd by School Committee

HAVERHILL — Good-bye MCAS. Hello PARCC.

The School Committee voted 4 to 3 last week to replace the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam with the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam.

The state education department gave the Haverhill district the option of which standardized, high-stakes exam it wants to offer students next year, Superintendent James Scully said.

The computer-based PARCC exam will replace the English-language arts and math MCAS in grades 3 through 11, Scully said.

The science versions of the MCAS — administered in grades 5, 8, and high school — will remain because the PARCC system does not have a test for that subject.

The new testing system is designed to eventually be administered totally online, although a paper-an-pencil version will be available for the first few years as schools districts update technology to accommodate the change. School districts, including Haverhill, need to add computers and broadband capacity to be able to test large numbers of students online simultaneously, Scully said.

The superintendent recommended switching to PARCC, primarily because the test is heavy on evolving technology and the questions are better at testing students’ “in-depth” understanding of material, he said.

“PARCC is the next generation of standardized tests,” Scully said. “Students are more technologically astute and this test caters to that better than MCAS. We need to continue to challenge students if we want them to grow. PARCC raises expectations for children more than MCAS and is more in line with what we are teaching in the classroom.”

Mayor James Fiorentini, chairman of the School Committee, voted against adopting the PARCC test. He said he preferred to stay with MCAS because the district has many years of experience interpreting MCAS scores.

Scully said there’s also a cost saving associated with the new exam. He said MCAS costs about $23 per student, while PARC cost about $15 per student.

Haverhill was one of several districts that piloted the PARCC test at several city schools this year.

Since 2010, 22 states have been molding an online exam aligned with the Common Core — a set of uniform standards in English language arts and mathematics created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

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