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Massachusetts Puts Pause on PARCC: What's Next for Florida?

November 22, 2013 - 6:00pm

Massachusetts, a state Florida constantly looks up to in terms of high-quality education, has decided to pump the brakes on the assessment test commonly associated with Common Core State Standards, raising questions as to whether Florida will follow a suit with its new assessment test.

The Massachusetts Board of Education decided to delay implementation of the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test for two years while it makes comparisons of PARCC to the states existing Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exam.

During that time, not all schools in Massachusetts will be required to administer the PARCC exam.

Instead, the state will undergo a transitionary phase that would allow the board towait until the fall of 2015 -- several months after the first operational PARCC tests are given -- to decide whether to embrace PARCC for Massachusetts' 3rd- through 8th-grade students. The board would wait at least that long, or possibly longer than that, to decide whether it will replace its current high school test, the 10th-grade MCAS -- which students must pass to graduate -- with the PARCC exams.

During the transition, districts could choose between PARCC and the MCAS tests.

"This transition approach is responsive to the field; it allows us to take PARCC for a 'test drive' before the board decides whether to adopt PARCC as our state assessment program for [English/language arts] and mathematics, "said Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester.

In September, Florida decided to pull out of the financial portion of the PARCC test used to measure student achievement under Common Core. But despite Florida severing its ties with PARCC, the assessment test is still on the table to replace the FCAT test in Floridas schools. Massachusetts decision to put a pause on the assessment could have further implications for Floridas assessment tests.

Just this week, Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said the State Board of Education would be looking at high-performing states across the country and what assessment tests they were using to determine the future direction of Floridas testing.

The first state mentioned? Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is often referred to as the guiding light for education, representing the highest level of achievement across the country. But with uncertainty about the future of PARCC in the Bay State, will Florida follow suit on putting the brakes on having an assessment test ready by the 2014-2015 school year?

The Department of Education is on track to select an assessment test by March, but some superintendents across the state have expressed concerns over the states assessment system. In a state board meeting this week,Volusia County School Superintendent Margaret Smith said that while the Floridas 67 school superintendents strongly support the Common Core standards, they believe districts need more time to prepare to teach the new standards as well as use a still-developing test to measure student performance.

"It is not realistic to expect that we can have a full and quality implementation in all K-12 grade levels by next year," Smith said, representing the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. "Teachers are under a tremendous stress because they are being trained while being expected to teach the new [Common Core] standards at the same time."

The state board, however, showed no signs that Florida would be slowing down on Common Core or its assessment tests.

The superintendents said they would push for a realistic plan in the 2014 Legislature.

But despite the boards perseverance to have the standards and assessment tests implemented by next year, Massachusetts latest decision on PARCC could throw a wrench into Floridas implementation plan, since the state board fully plans on having an assessment test in place by next year.

Applications for test options are due to the state board by Dec. 12.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atallison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at@AllisonNielsen.

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