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ERIC Number: EJ1102472
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1539-9664
Testing College Readiness
Nichols-Barrer, Ira; Place, Kate; Dillon, Erin; Gill, Brian P.
Education Next, v16 n3 p70-76 Sum 2016
The state of Massachusetts introduced a system of standardized testing in its public schools three years before the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mandated such practices for all 50 states. Although the tests have evolved over time, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) has been in place ever since. After Massachusetts adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, its education leaders faced a decision: whether to stick with MCAS, which it had already revised to align with the Common Core, or switch to a "next-generation" test that was specifically designed for the Common Core--and to assess students' readiness for college. As a member of the multistate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium, Massachusetts had a ready alternative in the new PARCC assessments. The stated goal of the PARCC exam is to measure whether students are on track to succeed in college, while the MCAS test aims to measure students' proficiency relative to statewide curriculum standards. Whether the PARCC test actually does a better job of measuring college preparedness was an open question prior to the fall of 2015. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Education commissioned this study in hopes of uncovering timely, rigorous evidence on how accurately the two tests assess college readiness. At the end of the 2014-15 academic year, Massachusetts arranged to have a sample of 866 college freshmen take the 10th-grade MCAS and PARCC assessments. The students were enrolled at 11 public higher-education campuses in Massachusetts. Each student was randomly assigned to complete one component of either the MCAS or the PARCC exam. Researchers collected college transcript data for all students in the sample, and examined the relationship between exam scores and several different outcomes, including grade point average (GPA) and enrollment in remedial courses. Researchers found one important difference between the two exams: PARCC's cutoff scores for college- and career-readiness in math are set at a higher level than the MCAS proficiency cutoff and are better aligned with what it takes to earn "B" grades in college math. By examining rigorous evidence about the validity of both of these tests, Massachusetts provides a model for other states facing difficult choices about whether and how to upgrade their assessment systems. The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education chose to adopt neither MCAS nor PARCC, but rather to develop a hybrid assessment that will aim to draw on the best of both tests.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A