MCT2, SATP, Common Core, PARCC, and Wayne County Public Schools
The state test called the Mississippi Curriculum Test (MCT2) given in the subjects of language, math, and science for grades 3-8, and the Subject Area Testing Program (SATP) for high school students in U.S. History, Biology, Algebra I, and English II, will no longer be given in Mississippi Pubic Schools beginning the 2014-2015 year. The seven classifications previously used to rate public schools in Mississippi (Star School, High Performing, Successful, Academic Watch, Low Performing School, At Risk of Failing, and Failing) no longer exist. The Mississippi State Legislature has now passed legislation that changes this classification system to a simplified five letter grading or classification system: A, B, C, D, and F. The public schools in Wayne County will be rated using this five letter system for state tests taken in 2011-2012. However, I think it's important to note that teachers, especially at the elementary and middle school level, did not give as much focus to drilling students to prepare for the MCT2 in 2011-2012. As a matter of fact, most educators would agree that in Mississippi Public Schools we have become very proficient in "teaching or drilling the test" but very inefficient in "teaching students" or focusing on student learning. Peg Tyre, a top education writer and speaker, said in her latest book The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve that “top schools get good scores by helping kids understand, analyze, and write about complex subjects. So-so schools use relentless test prep.” So the teachers of Wayne County at the elementary and middle school level have begun to change their focus from “relentless test prep” to helping our students understand what they need to know to be successful in college or a career through the teaching of the Common Core Standards in Reading, Writing, and Math that will be fully implemented in all Mississippi Public Schools in 2014. Right now the teachers at the high school level are still focusing on the four subject area tests because students must pass them in order to graduate; however, this standard could change with the new Common Core Testing in 2014. The number of tests, the design of the tests, and the subject areas of the tests (Biology and U.S. History will not be tested) will change for high school students beginning 2014. When the classifications are given for Wayne County Schools for the 2011-2012 school year based on the test results for MCT2, I do not think we should be surprised if the results are not good. The main focus of the teachers of our schools has been to prepare students for what is to come and not for what is on the way out (MCT2/SATP), and what is to come is the full implementation of Common Core Standards and Testing in 2014. What our teachers have known in the past and the way they have prepared for it has now changed. Beginning the 2012-2013 school year, teachers in Wayne County in K-12 Language, K-6 Math, and Algebra I will have new textbook programs and assessments that have the Common Core Standards included.
In 2009, 48 states, including Mississippi, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia signed an agreement with the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), committing to a state-led process- the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). On June 2, 2010, the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics (CCSS) were released. Building on the strength of current state standards represented by the Mississippi Curriculum Framework (MCF), the CCSS are designed to be focused, coherent, clear and rigorous. Students have to master difficult skills at an earlier age with Common Core. For example, kindergarten students will learn letters and sounds at an earlier age through Common Core with the emphasis on teaching them how to read. CCSS require students to think critically and at a higher level of complexity. They can no longer just memorize an answer to a question. CCSS are internationally benchmarked. Therefore, students in public schools in Mississippi will no longer just be compared with other students in their district or in the state, but now they will be compared with students all over the world and can now be in a position to compete with students all over the world. The CCSS are aligned with college and career expectations so that our students can be globally prepared for college and the workforce. CCSS will be fully implemented in all public schools in Mississippi during the 2014-2015 year. That's when our state will replace the MCT2 and the SATP with tests designed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
PARCC is a 23 state consortium, including Mississippi, working together to develop the next-generation K-12 Assessments in English and math. Mississippi is a Governing State in the PARCC Consortium. Interim Mississippi State Superintendent Lynn House serves on the PARCC Governing Board. James Mason, Director of Student Assessment at the Mississippi Department of Education is the K-12 leader for PARCC in Mississippi. PARCC was awarded Race to the Top, (a new federal educational program), assessment funds of $186 million in September of 2010 by the U. S. Department of Education to help states develop their K-12 Assessments. The PARCC Assessments for Mississippi will be ready for our state to administer during the 2014-2015 school year with the implementation of Common Core. The priority of the PARCC Assessments for our state will be to determine whether students are college and career ready or on track, to assess the full range of the Common Core Standards, to measure the full range of student performance for both high and low-performing students, to provide data during the school year to inform instruction, interventions, and professional development, to provide data for accountability, including measures of growth, and to incorporate innovative approaches throughout the assessment system. To address these priority purposes, PARCC will use an assessment system for our schools that will have two summative or cumulative portions- a performance based assessment (PBA) and an End-of-the-Year Assessment (EOY). The PBA will take place as near to the end of the school year as possible and will have ELA/Literacy students analyze and write about a text, and mathematics students apply skills, concepts, and understanding to solve problems. The EOY will be administered when about 90 percent of the school year is complete. This test will focus on reading comprehension for ELA/Literacy students and innovative problem solving for math students. There will be two non-summative or formative assessments that are optional that can be given at the beginning and the mid-points of the school year to help teachers identify student needs and what is needed for interventions for student growth in learning. Also a third non-summative test can be used in ELA/Literacy to assess students' speaking and listening skills. These new tests will be administered by computer and a combination of human scoring and automated scoring will be employed. These new tests will only be used to assess students in grades 3-12. To help our state and other states measure student knowledge at the lower grades (K-2), PARCC will develop an array of assessment resources for K-2 Teachers that are aligned to the Common core Standards and vertically aligned to the PARCC Assessment System. These assessment resources will consist of developmentally-appropriate assessments such as observations, checklists, classroom activities, and protocols which reflect the common Core Standards. The K-2 formative assessment tools aim to help create a foundation for students and put them on the right track to college and career readiness in the early years. These tools will also allow K-2 Teachers to adjust instruction as necessary and provide needed data about the knowledge and skills of students entering the third grade. PARCC is developing a number of tools and resources aligned to the Common Core standards and the PARCC Assessments for all grades. These tools and resources will be available at the Partnership Resource Center (PRC), a dynamic and interactive web-based library of all PARCC resources and materials. It is expected that the PRC will be available in the winter of 2013.
Wayne County Public Schools, just like all public schools in the state of Mississippi, are now undergoing major changes in what students are taught and how they are taught and how they will be assessed. However, I believe these changes are for the best for the students of our state. They will now be taught what they need to know to prepare them for college and the workforce and to compete globally, and they will be assessed on the Common Core Standards they are actually taught and learn in the classroom and not on something designed just for a test. “Teaching the Test” is now a thing of the past. In Wayne County Public Schools and across our state the emphasis will now be on student learning and growth through the teaching and testing of the Common Core Standards. Therefore, whatever rating the public schools of Wayne County receive for tests taken in 2011-2012 we should not be too concerned. We should be more concerned now about what our students are actually learning in the classroom and how we are preparing them for what is ahead.
Wayne County Schools