For the past 20 years the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) has played an important role in the Commonwealth’s achievement gains. MA K-12 public school students lead the nation in academic achievement and are competitive internationally. However, MCAS was not designed to measure readiness for success in college or a career after high school. In fact, more than a third of the state's public school graduates who attend Massachusetts's public colleges or universities are placed in remedial courses. The remedial rate is closer to 70 percent for two-year colleges. These courses often consume a student's financial aid, are not credit-bearing, and do not count toward graduation.
College readiness is critically important to both higher education and the P-12 schools that prepare our students. Readiness for college and career is central to the agenda for higher education, impacting access, retention, affordability, and time-to-degree. The lack of (1) clearly articulated expectations for college readiness, (2) agreed-upon standards between higher and secondary education to reach these goals, and (3) a consistent tool to demonstrate that a student has achieved these expectations has resulted in an ever-increasing number of students placed in developmental education.
On November 17, 2015, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to begin development of a next generation state assessment program, with target implementation beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. This decision was the result of extensive collaborative work across higher education and elementary and secondary education in Massachusetts and nationally.
The Massachusetts Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and Higher Education (DHE) worked jointly on the Massachusetts Definition of Readiness for College and Careers adopted in 2013 and the Commonwealth’s four-year engagement as a leading state with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC).
BESE is now working on a computer-based MCAS assessment program that will be administered in all schools beginning in Spring 2017. The new assessment will build on the best elements of PARCC and MCAS, augmented by additional test items developed by Massachusetts. The ongoing collaborative approach ensures that DESE and DHE and all related K-12 stakeholders work to develop next-generation English language arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments as well as other assessments in science and social studies to follow.