Massachusetts once had the best state test in the country. Will it again?

The Hechinger Report, news story, 6-7-2016

The MCAS has long been considered one of the nation’s best tests at assessing student performance. But the shift to the Common Core State Standards meant it would have to go. The PAARC tests, used in states such as Illinois and New Jersey since 2015, were supposed to be even better. Not the joy-killing machines ruining childhood, as so many critics have portrayed standardized tests, but true measures of whether children were learning the key skills they would need as grown-ups: how to think critically, solve problems, make a convincing argument, and write a coherent paragraph.

Instead, the uproar over testing has only gotten louder. The increased difficulty of PARCC and other Common Core-aligned exams sent pass rates plummeting, while teacher evaluations linked to scores have fueled union-led fights, including those now unfolding in Massachusetts. And the continued use of multiple-choice questions has parents, teachers, and kids questioning whether the new tests could be much better than what they were replacing.

Amid the controversy, the Massachusetts Board of Education decided last fall to create an MCAS/PARCC hybrid unique to this state. Officials and educators are optimistic that by retaining control over the test, they will help preserve Massachusetts’s spot at the top of the US educational pack.

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