PARCC is a state-of-the-art system of assessment that measures a broad set of knowledge and skills directly indicative of college- and career-readiness. PARCC raises the bar for Massachusetts by measuring student performance at a high level with rigorous math and English/language arts tasks, and by providing more detailed information about student growth from third grade through high school. This more detailed information helps educators determine each student’s best route toward college and career readiness.

Advantages over MCAS

  • PARCC sets a higher bar. Students meeting the PARCC college and career ready standard in math are half as likely to need remediation as students meeting the MCAS proficiency standard.
  • PARCC is also about preparation. The goal of PARCC is to let students know whether they are on track to college and career readiness (CCR) and, in earlier grades, how they are progressing toward CCR.
  • PARCC was designed to align to the Common Core standards, which embody the most advanced thinking regarding how to prepare all students – not just those who attend affluent, high performance schools – for success in college, careers, and life in general after high school.
  • PARCC assesses a broader range of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical writing.
  • PARCC isn’t just an end of year test. It is a comprehensive, aligned system of tools to support successful implementation of Massachusetts curriculum standards. It includes tools to give educators information on students’ mastery of each standard throughout the school year.
  • Accessibility features and accommodations on the PARCC assessments allow students to best demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Built with universal design principles, PARCC is as accessible as possible to all students, including English learners and students with disabilities, and gives all students equal opportunity to show what they know and can do.

Why does it work for Massachusetts?

  • PARCC is proving popular in Massachusetts classrooms. In a Teach Plus survey, 71 percent of teachers preferred PARCC to MCAS, and strongly recommended that the Board of Education in Elementary and Secondary Education adopt it statewide.
  • PARCC is essentially a Massachusetts test. Massachusetts had a significant leadership role in the development of PARCC, with hundreds of Massachusetts teachers and administrators participating in the creation and refinement of the PARCC test and individual questions. They were among educators and education experts across a dozen states who contributed to designing and developing PARCC.
  • PARCC will address the honesty gap that now gives students and their families a false sense of security regarding preparation for college and the workforce. Although 91 percent of 10th graders who took the 2015 MCAS test scored in the “proficient” or “advanced” range, Massachusetts higher education officials report that 37 percent of students who pass MCAS in high school and go on to attend state colleges must take non-credit bearing remedial courses in math or English. At community colleges, 65 percent need remediation before they can take college-level English or math courses. Setting a realistic baseline and being truthful about how our students are performing is the right thing to do.


Outdated – Designed in the mid- to late-1990s, it remains virtually unchanged since 1998. Not designed to measure college- and career-readiness. Old-fashioned paper-and-pencil test. State-of-the-Art – Designed starting in 2011, this next generation assessment is specifically meant to measure college- and career-readiness. Computer-based test that leverages technology to assess a broader range of knowledge and skills.
Measures Rote Learning – Questions are typically focused on comprehension and information recall rather than conceptual understanding. Measures Critical Thinking / Problem Solving – Questions require students to handle complex material, support arguments with evidence, and explain reasoning when solving problems.
High School Test Bar Too Low – High School tests measure content no higher than 10th grade standards. A large proportion of items on the 10th grade MCAS math tests measure 6th, 7th, and 8th grade standards. Sets a High Bar – The series of 9th through 11th grade tests enable PARCC to assess a wide depth and breadth of content. Math tests require students to apply skills, concepts, and understanding to solve multi-step problems calling for abstract reasoning, precision, perseverance, and strategic use of tools.
Continues Honesty Gap – MCAS fails to deliver honest measures of whether students are on track for college and careers. As a result, a high percentage of students who pass MCAS in high school need remedial courses in college. Honest Measure of Expected Success – PARCC aligns with the expectations of two- and four-year state colleges and universities, reducing the need for costly remediation.
Unaligned Across Grade Levels – MCAS tests are not connected across grade levels – i.e., a Proficient score in grade 4 may not mean a student is on track to meet that in grade 8. It is a patchwork of tests introduced at different times and for different purposes from 1998 through 2006 Aligns Across Grade Levels – PARCC is a consistently-designed assessment spanning grades 3 through 11, designed to reflect the progression of skills and knowledge needed to be college- and career-ready.