EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 17, 2014

Schools to test drive new exam

ANDOVER — MCAS season is about to begin, but students shouldn’t be too quick to sharpen their No. 2 pencils. Some youths in Andover won’t be needing them.

More than 400 students at six of the town’s 10 public schools are slated to play the role of guinea pig in a field test of a new partially computer-driven assessment program in the coming weeks.

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment program— better known as PARCC — is being explored by 19 states as a replacement to the traditional MCAS testing method. The new assessment method is facilitated by academic giant Pearson Education, Inc.

The test will hit specific classrooms in three elementary schools — High Plain, South and West — as well as all three middle schools, with the first classrooms being tested starting the end of this month. It will reach the high school later this spring.

Superintendent Marinel McGrath said letters recently went out to households with students who are slated to take PARCC for a spin.

Work has been under way at the various schools to make sure the necessary technology is in place and that teachers know how to run the tests, some of which are taken on computers or laptops as opposed to traditional sheets of paper, she said.

“It is such a huge undertaking,” McGrath said.

Assistant Superintendent Nancy Duclos said students can expect “a lot of nuances in the test that go beyond practicality.”

“Sitting down at a computer to do an assessment is very different from a paper test,” Duclos said. “There’s an opportunity where kids are going to have to be able to read and they have to type. And in the math part, they have to be able to manipulate an online calculator.”

In one test, students will watch videos and wear ear buds to hear the audio, Duclos said. After the video ends, the test begins to measure comprehension, done in part by dragging boxes on the screen in an order that correlates to the video.

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