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Untangling PARCC’s new testing schedule


Score one for public activism and another for common sense. This week, the governing board of PARCC, which delivers standardized tests aligned with the Common Core, announced some sensible changes to next year’s K-12 testing schedule. The new schedule shaves about 90 minutes of total testing time and consolidates tests into a single period. That will correct one of the more glaring absurdities in the current process: a schedule that called for “performance based assessments” in early spring, then a separate set of “end-of-year reviews” in late spring.

In a sense, this is the process at work. PARCC, which stands for the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, solicited feedback from students, teachers, and parents when it delivered tests this year in 11 states and the District of Columbia — including about half of Massachusetts school districts. But the changes are also a sign that the “opt-out” movement, and other vocal forms of parent-driven backlash, are having an effect. And imposing some self-restraint is the smartest thing PARCC advocates can do for themselves.

Next fall, Massachusetts Board of Education will vote on whether to permanently replace its MCAS tests with PARCC. It will be a fraught political decision no matter what, and this week’s changes don’t come close to addressing every critic’s concerns. But PARCC stands a much better chance if it comes with a sense that education officials are listening to the public, and recognizing ways that testing can go too far.