In Focus: For Massachusetts Students, PARCC and MCAS Exams Comparable in Predicting College Outcomes
We studied whether the Common Core-aligned tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers predict college readiness and success, and how they compare to the existing Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests. Key findings include:
- Both the MCAS and the PARCC predict college readiness: The validity of scores on PARCC assessments in predicting college grades is similar to the validity of scores on the MCAS.
- Scores on both the MCAS and PARCC provide similarly strong predictions about which students need remedial coursework in college.
- In math, meeting the PARCC standard for college readiness predicts a higher level of college performance than meeting the MCAS standard for proficiency, while in English language arts the two standards are similar.
- In math, students who achieve the college-ready standard on PARCC are also less likely to need remediation than students who achieve the proficient standard on MCAS, while in English language arts the two standards are not statistically distinguishable.
As Massachusetts considers whether to reform its statewide educational assessments, a new study from Mathematica Policy Research shows that students’ scores on the state’s existing high school assessment predict college performance as well as scores on a new test that is already in use in several states and is being considered for statewide adoption in Massachusetts. However, the study also found that the new test sets a higher performance standard in mathematics.
The newly developed assessments of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), designed to be aligned with Common Core standards, were administered in 11 states and the District of Columbia in spring 2015. Mathematica’s study is the first to examine the extent to which PARCC assessments succeed in one of their major goals: identifying students who are ready for college. We compared how high school PARCC exams and the existing Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) predict college grades and placement in remedial courses. Mathematica’s study was commissioned by the state to inform its decision about whether to continue using MCAS exams or to switch to the PARCC’s set of tests.