Massachusetts Rejects PARCC

There is no doubt that adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has elevated the playing field for students across the country. The standards are far more rigorous than those previously employed by most individual states. However, with Massachusetts being the latest state to reject PARCC (Preparedness and Readiness for College and Careers) Assessments and to commission a team to develop and implement its own assessment test (being labeled MCAS-2), one must now wonder what is so repulsive about the PARCC test series that the Massachusetts Board of Education would decide to take the time, trouble, and expense to write its own.  The answer can be summerized in one word: CONTROL.

The United States comprises 50 individual states—united, but independent. Most states have lawmakers who are independent minded as well. As a result, many states’ lawmakers have decided, or will decide, that their states can assess their own students, rather than having the federal government exercise control over what is taught and tested. PARCC was created by Pearson Education, under a giant grant from the US Government. Pearson, in turn, farmed out the project to subcontractors that included ETS and Caveon. So, PARCC was, essentially, sponsored, funded, and controlled by the US Government.

So, where does that leave the CCSS? It is very likely that the common core standards will, for the vast majority of states, remain a valid set of guidelines for how students are taught and tested. The creation and implementation of state assessment tests will largely remain the domain of individual states. For Massachusetts, since CCSS was based on the existing standards, MCAS-2 will likely closely resemble PARCC, which was entirely based on the CCSS standards as well. The most pronounced difference between PARCC and MCAS-2 will be that MCAS-2 will bear the mark of the Massachusetts State Board of Education and not the logo of Pearson Education, Inc.