MA Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows Recommend Statewide Adoption of PARCC

MA Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows Recommend Statewide Adoption of PARCC

MA Teachers Find PARCC Outperforms MCAS; Teach Plus Policy Fellows Report Presents Key Findings from 351 MA Teachers Who Engaged in Deep Study of PARCC

BOSTON, MA, March 24, 2015 — In a newly-released report, a diverse group of 23 teachers from high-needs schools and districts across the Commonwealth who are participating in the Teach Plus Massachusetts Policy Fellowship are recommending statewide adoption of the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.  The Fellows’ report presents findings from the feedback of 351 classroom teachers in 74 districts who studied the PARCC assessment.  Overall, teachers rated the test favorably, with 72 percent of teachers finding it to be a higher-quality assessment than the MCAS. Massachusetts teachers also found clear alignment between PARCC and the standards they teach.   

Teach Plus, a national non-profit that empowers teachers to lead improvements in policy and practice, held two events in Massachusetts to offer local public school teachers the opportunity to delve deeply into the PARCC test.  During an intensive day of professional development, the teachers learned more about PARCC questions and analyzed their alignment to the Common Core State Standards and the characteristics of high-quality assessments. The teachers reviewed PARCC sample test items, discussed them with fellow teachers, and provided feedback about the quality of the test through a survey. 

“The findings tell an important story about the quality of the PARCC test and its significance to teaching and learning in the Commonwealth,” said Lindsay Sobel, Executive Director of Teach Plus Massachusetts.  “The Teach Plus Massachusetts Policy Fellows offer thoughtful recommendations that will help us ensure that teachers and students benefit from the transition to this measure of essential skills.”

Teach Plus held seven “Testing the Test” events in the fall of 2014 in Illinois, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C.  Over 1,000 teachers participated and extensively analyzed the PARCC assessment.  The Teach Plus report, “1,000 Teachers Examine PARCC: Perspectives on the Quality of New Assessments,” presents key findings based on the teachers’ feedback.  The feedback of Massachusetts teachers is consistent with that of other teachers who took part in the events.

Key findings specific to Massachusetts are:

1.Teachers believe that PARCC is a better assessment then their prior state tests.  72 percent of Massachusetts teachers rated PARCC a higher-quality test than MCAS. 

2. Teachers find clear alignment between PARCC and what they are teaching. 

3.While the majority believe PARCC measures skills needed to be college- and career-ready, teachers were mixed on whether the test was grade-appropriate or too challenging.  Forty-eight percent of Massachusetts teachers said that the test did “extremely well” or “very well” in measuring college- and career-ready skills of students, with just 11 percent of teachers responding “not very well” or “not well at all.”

“I owe it to my students to use a rigorous test that measures real-world skills,” said Lisa Nguyen, an elementary school teacher in Boston Public Schools, who presented at the events and is one of the co-authors of the report. “These findings indicate that PARCC is a better test than MCAS.  I want to see it adopted statewide so we can focus on teaching our students to be college- and career-ready.”

The Teaching Policy Fellows offered recommendations for next steps that policymakers can take to help teachers as they continue to teach the Common Core. Specifically, teachers have pinpointed the following as being most useful:

  • The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should adopt PARCC statewide. 

  • Provide teachers with more professional development and knowledge of PARCC before the full-scale implementation of the new assessment system.

  • In order to help ensure adequate alignment of these initiatives to the new assessment system, PARCC should release a larger sample of questions.

  • The state of Massachusetts should create a diverse teacher council to address implementation challenges, interface directly with test and policy makers, and create a continuous dialogue and refinement process throughout the PARCC transition.

  • Massachusetts should encourage districts to eliminate unnecessary tests that were used before PARCC, taking advantage of the fact that PARCC is rigorous and aligned to the Common Core — and protecting essential time for instruction.

“Preparing our students for a test of critical thinking like PARCC is hard work, but I believe that educators and students can rise to the occasion,” said Jeff Cipriani, an elementary school teacher in Boston Public Schools who is a co-author of the report. “If Massachusetts focuses on a strong roll out of the Common Core and PARCC, we will be focusing on the right things to get our students ready to succeed.”

About Teach Plus

Teach Plus aims to improve outcomes for urban children by ensuring that a greater proportion of students have access to effective, experienced teachers. Teach Plus runs three programs designed to place teacher leaders at the center of reform: Teaching Policy Fellows, the Core Collaborative (C2) Initiative, and T3: Turnaround Teacher Teams. The programs focus on demonstrably effective teachers who want to continue classroom teaching while also expanding their impact as leaders in their schools and in district, state and national policy.  Since its inception in August 2009, Teach Plus has grown to a network of more than 20,000 solutions-oriented teachers in six major cities across the country.


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