Bourne School Board Says Adios To MCAS

The Bourne School Committee voted unanimously recently to end 17 years of MCAS testing in favor of the new student assessment testing known as Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC).

The testing will change for grades 3 through 8 next year but will pave the way for the test to be administered to all grades by 2016. Bourne joins all other school districts on the Cape, with the exception of Sandwich, in switching to the new assessment.

“Think of what we were doing 17 years ago. Are we still doing the same things we were then?” Bourne superintendent of schools Steven M. Lamarche said,  referring to the system’s adoption of MCAS.

Mr. Lamarche and two of his administrative colleagues, assistant superintendent Susan J. Quick and Catherine A. Lyons, an instructional coach for Bourne Middle School, asked the committee to approve the change in order to meet the June 30 early decision deadline to register the district’s intent to administer the test in the spring of 2015.

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“You, as a committee, have pushed us to evolve our curriculum and our teaching and learning and have empowered us for this very kind of performance-based assessment,” Mr. Lamarche said.

Bourne School Committee member Matthew B. Stuck had questions about the district’s readiness to administer the test to all students on a computer or tablet. Mr. Lamarche felt that both Bourne Middle School and Bournedale Elementary would be able to allow students to take the tests on currently available technology but that Peebles Elementary may have to start taking the test on paper until the school’s technology could be upgraded. The school district’s investment in technology over the last few years was cited as one of the reasons the district was ready to make the switch.

Ms. Quick gave the committee actual examples of the difference between PARCC and MCAS. 

“To me PARCC is a little more robust. The questions ask students for a higher level of critical thinking that MCAS does not offer us,” Ms. Quick said. She also invited Ms. Lyons to give her input as a learning coach on the assessment testing. Ms. Lyons spoke to the way the computer test engaged the students during a field test of the assessment run earlier this year.

“This assessment asks students to analyze and synthesize information using written narrative and video clips, in an interactive way that the students respond to. I believe our students can do it. If we go with MCAS, we will not be as innovative as I hope we will be,” Ms. Lyons said.

Mr. Stuck also asked the trio to help the committee understand how the new assessment testing will factor into teacher evaluations.

The superintendent let the committee know that Bourne schools has negotiated teacher contracts to include the stipulation that three years’ worth of performance data from the assessment will be used as “district determined measures” of an educator’s performance.

School committee member Laura M. Scena added her remarks from the perspective of the curriculum subcommittee.

“Making our students ready for college and career is huge. We are always looking for ways to link educational standards with habits of the mind and to empower ways of thinking as a way to apply what you know. I am really excited about this,” Ms. Scena said.

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