Oh, the dreaded MCAS. Many Boston College students have experienced and maybe even loathed this statewide Massachusetts assessment. The possibility of the fifteen-year-old MCAS being replaced is shocking to those who grew up taking these tests.
For those who don’t come from Massachusetts, the MCAS stands for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests. These are administered annually to public school students in grades three through eight, and again in tenth grade to determine whether or not high school students are college-ready. Despite the specificity to Massachusetts, every BC student can relate to the experience of having to take assessment tests (Do the ACTs and SATs ring a bell?) and many can remember their own statewide assessments.
Based on just the raw numbers, students are performing quite well on the MCAS at the moment. The 2013 scores show “record high performance” on the 10th grade English, Math and Science tests and “a narrowing of the gap between white students’ and black and Latino students’ scores,” according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Overall, for the 10th grade, there has been some great improvement. Eighty-eight percent of 10th graders met the minimum MCAS score needed for a high school diploma for all three test subjects, up from 86 percent in 2012.
This success in numbers, however, bellies talk of a new test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), possibly replacing the MCAS. The PARCC tests are computer-based assessments designed by Pearson to be a more rigorous measurement of advanced writing, critical thinking and other “college and career-ready” skills.
The hope is that this new test will improve the way students are being tested, since 40 percent of students who graduate from public high schools in Massachusetts and pass the MCAS end up needing to take remedial courses in their first year of college.
“It’s clear that MCAS is not providing us with the signal or rigor we need to tell us whether students are on track and ready for college-level work,” said State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.
At the moment, the plan is for the PARCC to be administered in the 2015-2016 school year. This could be a huge change for BC. Years from now, the standards for and quality of the high school students who eventually become college freshmen could become increasingly more selective. Future BC students may reply to questions about their MCAS scores with, “What’s the MCAS?”
Featured image via albertogp123/Flickr.