SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 31, 2014

Students try out new tests this week

Not all schools will be able to give exams online

BOSTON — Massachusetts schools will test-drive a new standardized exam this week, and administrators say they are concerned about the technology demands of the mostly computer-based tests.

Tens of thousands of students will participate in the first trial of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. State education officials say the test, designed as part of a shift to national education standards known as the Common Core, eventually could replace MCAS, a hallmark of standardized tests in the Bay State for more than 15 years.

Not all districts have enough computers or sufficient Internet connectivity to give the online exam. Instead, many will give the test to students the old-fashioned way, with paper and pencil.

“It’s a big problem, and we’ve made that known to the state,” said Peabody Schools Superintendent Joseph Mastrocola. Students at four elementary schools in Peabody, as well as Higgins Middle School and Peabody High, will take the exam on paper.

“The issue isn’t as much computers as it is having bandwidth for large chunks of real-time data,” Mastrocola said.

Nearly two-thirds of the state’s public schools will take part in the PARCC trial that gets underway this week. They include schools in Salem, Danvers, Marblehead and Beverly.

Some districts will test entire schools. Others will administer only the sample exam to one class per grade.

The practice exam comes just as many students in grades 3 to 8 — as well as 10th-graders — finish the annual MCAS exam.

“It’s a lot of testing,” said Dan Rubin, 16, a sophomore at Swampscott High School, which is participating in the field run. “But I heard we can take it online, which is kind of cool.”

That’s not the case everywhere, however.

In Haverhill, which is field-testing PARCC at four of 14 schools starting Monday, only students at John G. Whittier Middle School will take the online version. In Lawrence, four of 11 schools participating will take the exam on paper.

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