Reflections from Katie: February 25, 2016

I wanted to take a moment to explain the status of standardized testing for this year in Cambridge. There have been a lot of changes over the past few years, and it can be difficult to keep track of what is happening NOW. When I refer to standardized tests, I am referring to tests that the state of Massachusetts requires public schools to administer each year. The purpose of these tests is to ensure that all students are being taught the standards, and for schools to see where they can improve. For many years now, the state test has been the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System). This test has been administered to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in reading and math. Additionally, 4th graders have been tested in writing, and 5th graders have been tested in Science, Technology, and Engineering. The literacy tests were given in late March, and the math and science tests were given in mid-May.

This year, the state offered districts the option of switching to a different test called the PARCC. Just like MCAS, the PARCC test is designed to assess the Massachusetts state standards, which are aligned to the Common Core State Standards. However, the state is in the process of completely redesigning MCAS (they’re developing MCAS 2.0) to be more similar to the PARCC test. Hence, Cambridge decided to administer the PARCC test this year. To be clear, the choice was not: PARCC or no test. The choice was PARCC or MCAS. To understand the rationale for this decision, I encourage you to read Dr. Young’s letter to the community from December. It is posted on

This spring we will be administering the PARCC test in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades starting at the end of April. While the PARCC offers a computer based test, we will be administering the paper based test this year. The window for the PARCC test is April 25th-May 27th. In the next few weeks I will be able to send out specific dates for the individual tests in each grade level.

We will also be administering the Science, Technology, and Engineering MCAS for 5th graders in May.

If you are interested in learning more about the PARCC test, you can visit the PARCC website at: