What just happened with MCAS and PARCC?

After Tuesday’s Board of Ed meeting (which I attended), I saw a lot of confusion about what the Commissioner actually said. I thus posted this:

When we walked into the Board of Ed this morning, our last indication on where we were going was the comment from Commissioner Chester last night which was clearly an attempt to walk towards a third way:

I am considering this new model, this door number three, that takes advantage of our access to PARCC development … but uses that development for the construction of a MCAS 2.0, and gives us the running room to ensure that MCAS 2.0 is exactly the test that we want

Today, though, at a “just before adjournment” section, and in response to questions from Ed Doherty, Chester used a key verb: recommend:

recommending to the Board that we not just stick with MCAS as it is now; that we not just adopt PARCC and hope that it’s a great test, but that we go down a path of developing our own test

So what does that mean?
First of all, as pointed out by Deputy Commissioner Wulfson, it changes nothing for spring, as there is no MCAS  2.0. We as a state are either doing MCAS or PARCC during this school year, this spring.

Second, it potentially tries to answers everyone’s criticism at once. Don’t like having other states decide? We won’t! Don’t think we should be stuck with the MCAS? We aren’t! Think PARCC has more challenging questions? We’ll keep that! And so forth. It can capture thepush coming from the superintendents this morning without (potentially) alienating those who are convinced that only Massachusetts going it alone can do best.
Side note from me: I found Superintendent Chang’s discussion of what Massachusetts might, as an educational leader, owe the country an intruguing thought (as did Vice-Chair Morton, who picked it up later).
Now, this only works with PARCC’s new(ish) choices; previously, you were in or out. Now can you be partly in, or buy their services, or pick and choose. Pragmatically, I suspect it’s the only way to keep the consortium together at all, ‘though given the number of states that are doing things like keeping Common Core but naming them something else, they may well have takers on such a system.
Also, if everybody wins, everyone can also be seen as losing.

For those really looking for a third way, this timeline from Chester today is interesting:

if we were building a next generation MCAS from scratch…that’s probably…and we’d very much want Massachusetts educators involved…that’s easily a three year timeframe

Now, this proposal is that we NOT build a next generation MCAS, but build it off the PARCC, which, as Chester said, would take less time. There is going to be time involved in building any such assessment, ‘though, which (I’d argue) leaves a bit of an opening for conversations about what it really looks like to have assessments that are the “real work” happening in the classroom.

So far, we haven’t.

 

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