A report released by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) Thursday shows the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) does not indicate a student’s preparedness for post-high school success, resulting in “a lack of alignment with college and career expectations has resulted in high remediation rates at state colleges and universities and a widening ‘skills gap.’”

MBAE officials tap this as the first study of its kind.

MBAE Executive Director Linda Noonan joined WGBH’s Morning Edition host Bob Seay to talk about the findings of the report, titled “Educating Students for Success: A Comparison of the MCAS and PARCC Assessments as Indicators of College- and Career-Readiness.”    


On how the PARCC test better assess a student’s ability to succeed than the MCAS test

The research shows that it tests higher order thinking; students have more opportunity for open-ended responses using information; citing it; and showing their work, so it is not just a bubble test, where students have to recall and regurgitate. It’s where they have to apply what they know and that gives teachers and educators better diagnostics; it gives families and students a better sense of where they need to work to improve and what they’re doing really well.

On why the MCAS test needs to be replaced

The MCAS was designed to measure proficiency – a basic level of skills and knowledge to do what was expected 20 years ago of high school graduates. The world has changed, and we need to go beyond proficiency. Kids have to be life-long learners. They have to adapt as jobs disappear, and new ones appear, and as the world changes. At a time of high remediation rates, about 69 percent of employers say they cannot find qualified workers for available positions. There’s clearly a disconnect.  So we’re interested at this juncture – as the state considers replacing the MCAS – to know how the two tests under consideration compare as indicators of college and career readiness. The research has show that the MCAS is really not aligned to college and career readiness. The next question is: is PARCC the right one?

On why there is a sense of urgency to replace the MCAS

Our children are not prepared for college and the work-force, and we don’t want to send them out with the impression that their diploma means that they’re ready. We want to make sure that our kids are keeping up with a very fast-paced, changing world. Education needs to keep pace, and sometimes that is fast one.

On opponents of the PARCC assessment citing it’s computer-based nature as a setback

I think there are certainly going to be challenges to transferring to a technological test. But this is the 21st century. We need a 21st century test and in fact, many school districts are finding that this is what’s driving them to bring in the educational technology that their children deserve and need to be prepared for the kinds of demands that they’ll face after they graduate.