Assessment at Berkshire Hills
Assessments are the tools that we use to determine how well students understand the curriculum being taught in their classes. There are many types of assessments, ranging from quizzes and tests to essays and stories to performances and projects.
Often, when we hear the word “assessment” we immediately think “standardized test”. Although standardized tests are one form of assessment, they are a small part of the overall assessment picture. When students are engaged in meaningful work connected to their lives, they exceed our expectations. Assessments are most valuable when they are not simply measures of what we have done, but of what more we have to do. Quality assessments give us insights that help us better understand learning and teaching. We use those insights to shift and improve our approaches.
We never depend on just one form assessment to understand a student. Instead, we use multiple data points, ranging from tests to one-on-one conversations, to get a complete picture of each student’s holistic needs.
Authentic Performance Assessments
At Berkshire Hills, we are particularly interested in high-quality performance assessments. In a performance assessment, students are asked to apply the knowledge, skills, and understandings that they have gained. They are not asked to simply recall facts, they are asked to take what they have learned and use it in an authentic way.
Writing a short story in the style of a particular author is an example of a performance assessment. Creating a mock-up of a travel brochure or website to promote a studied country is an example of a performance assessment. Performance assessments can also be smaller moments between a teacher and student.
We are required by Massachusetts to participate in state-wide, standardized tests that are aligned with the State Curriculum Frameworks. We are required to test all students in grades 3-8, and grade 10, in English Language Arts and Mathematics. We are also required to test students in grades 5, 8, and 10 in Science, Technology, and Engineering.
The results of these tests are the main factor determining our Accountability and Assistance level, a report card generated by the state to gauge how our students are progressing. View the BHRSD District Report Card here.
This year, Berkshire Hills is participating in the PARCC exam for Grades 3-8 ELA and Math. 10th grade students will participate in the MCAS exam for ELA and Math, and 5th, 8th, and 10th grade students will participate in the MCAS exam for Science, Technology, and Engineering.
The PARCC Exam
PARCC stands for the “Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.” The PARCC is a standardized assessment that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Click here to visit the Common Core website, and learn more about these standards.
Currently, twelve states plus the District of Columbia are participating in the PARCC assessment.
The PARCC is designed to measure students’ knowledge, critical-thinking skills, and problem-solving abilities in both English Language Arts and Math. The PARCC has two components.
The first component is a performance-based assessment, conducted in March and
an end-of-year assessment, conducted in May.
The Berkshire Hills Regional School District is a pilot site for the PARCC in Massachusetts. As part of the pilot, our District will be “held harmless” from our results on the PARCC. This means our District accountability level cannot go down this year, regardless of how our students do on the test.
We encourage all parents and community members to learn more about the tests. Sample items and complete practice tests are available online at the PARCC website. Select the drop-down menu labeled “Test Preparation”.
The MCAS Exam
The MCAS stands for “Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System”. It was developed in 1993 and is designed to evaluate students, schools, and districts. It is also intended to provide information to improve curriculum and instruction.
The MCAS exam is an untimed test, administered from March to May.
To learn more, visit the Massachusetts Department of Education Website.