PARCC’s ‘College-Ready’ Score Reflects Rigor of College Work

PARCCA first-of-its-kind study has found that students who score at the “college-ready” level on the PARCC exam are well-positioned to earn good grades in college. The findings provide early evidence that the assessment does what it was designed to do: measure college readiness.

The Massachusetts Department of Education commissioned Mathematica Policy Research to do the study last year, as it was considering whether to use PARCC in 2017 or keep using its longtime test, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS.

Massachusetts decided to create a hybrid of the two tests. A summary of the study, which compares PARCC and MCAS, was published in Education Next. (The full study can be downloaded here.)

Researchers at Mathematica wanted to know how closely a “college-ready” score on PARCC and a “proficient” score on MCAS correlate with a good grade-point-average in freshman-year college study, and with the need to take remedial courses. But since it was too soon to follow high school students who took those tests into their freshman year in college—PARCC made its debut in the 2014-15 school year—they devised a “concurrent” design: They had freshmen in Massachusetts state colleges and universities take the PARCC and the MCAS in the spring of 2015 and examined how those scores, from 847 students, correlated with their grades and remediation patterns at the time.

For Massachusetts policymakers, the Mathematica study offered important comparisons, finding that the MCAS had about the same power as PARCC and the SAT college-admissions exam to predict freshman-year grades, and about the same power as PARCC to predict students’ need to take remedial classes.

For more information on this study, see