Northampton schools stay with MCAS, while Easthampton tries PARCC

Last modified: Friday, June 20, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Northampton students in Grades 3 to 8 will continue taking the MCAS standardized tests next spring rather than participating in tryouts of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) tests.

Easthampton students will take the PARCC tests.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is giving school districts the choice to either administer the PARCC tests to these grades next year or continuing to use the MCAS.

Northampton school leaders recently decided to stick with the MCAS. According to the state website, the districts that choose to administer PARCC next year will do so at “no risk” — meaning they will not see a negative impact on their state ratings if student do not score well, but will see their ratings go up if students score high.

In a phone interview, interim Superintendent Regina Nash said that the Northampton schools do not have enough electronic devices to implement the computerized version of the PARCC tests, and that the administration believes continuing with the MCAS will be the best way to overcome the district’s current level 3 ranking — which consists of the state’s lowest performing 20 percent of schools, including those with the biggest proficiency gaps.

The School Committee overwhelmingly approved the administration’s recommendation last week. Eight board members voted in favor, one member abstained and one was not present, said Nash.

Meanwhile, Easthampton school officials elected to participate in the PARCC tryouts with a unanimous vote by the School Committee last week.

“We believe that gives us the opportunity to experience the test before we’re held accountable to the results of the test,” Superintendent of Schools Nancy Follansbee said in a phone interview.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote in fall 2015 on whether to replace the MCAS exams with PARCC statewide.

In the spring, Northampton school officials requested to sit out PARCC “field tests” for Grades 3 to 11 for which the state selected Northampton and several other Hampshire County school districts, citing demands on administrative time and a lack of a wireless network as some of the reasons. The state agreed to limit those tryouts to Jackson Street and JFK Middle School.

The other districts in the area selected for that round of tryouts were Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, Hatfield and Westhampton schools.

School districts must decide whether to administer PARCC or MCAS next year by June 30 in order to have their choice guaranteed by the state.