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PARCC Completes Field Testing of Common Core Assessments

This coming school year, a majority of states will implement the Common Core State Standards and corresponding assessments from either the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. To prepare for the new assessments, both consortia field-tested thousands of test items this spring. AACTE asked each consortium to provide our members with an update on its progress. This post addresses PARCC; find the Smarter Balanced update here. The views in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

In June, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)—which includes 14 states and the District of Columbia—accomplished a major milestone: the completion of a field test of new, Common Core-aligned assessments that were developed for the states by the states. Almost 4 years in the making, these K-12 assessment systems came online this spring as states started to “test the test” to ensure that assumptions made about content alignment, use of technology, and ease of use for both students and teachers alike were on target.

For the field test, consortium members piloted over 10,000 items with more than 1 million students across 16,000 schools. The exercise aimed to provide consortium participants with the following critical benefits:

  • Students become familiar with new item types and the test delivery platform, thus taking some of the anxiety out the transition to online testing (when many have previously only experienced pencil-and-paper tests).
  • Parents learn more about PARCC and are able to ask questions about what Common Core-aligned assessments really look like and what they can do to support their children and their children’s teachers in the classroom.
  • Teachers provide feedback to PARCC on “how it went” and continue to be one of the biggest collective voices in driving the assessment so it is an educator’s assessment—not simply an updated version of what states have previously used.
  • Technology coordinators evaluate their schools’ technology systems and make adjustments to infrastructure and technology purchasing plans before the assessments roll out in the next school year.
  • Administrators evaluate overall readiness and are able to refine plans for professional development, technology transitions, assessment scheduling, and other critical components over the course of the coming months.
  • Assessment developers and states measure the reliability of the test questions to ensure they are well aligned to the standards, are free of bias, and reflect the instructional shifts that the standards require.

The data generated by the field test will allow researchers to dig into key questions such as the comparability of paper-based and computer-based tests, whether accessibility features worked properly, and whether student performance differed significantly on tablets versus laptops versus other equipment. These results and analyses will drive how the assessments are refined and continue to be developed; although the field test may be over, the hard work of making sure the highest quality assessment is delivered to states in the coming school year is still going on.

So how can teacher educators prepare for the assessments? Just as I’ve written in ASCD’s “Inservice” blog in previous months (see here and here), teacher educators can use the same resources that teachers have been using in the professional learning communities in their schools and districts to connect good assessment with good instruction. PARCC states have produced a number of sample items and documents, from the Model Content Frameworks to evidence statements to scoring rubrics to performance-level descriptors, that demystify the process of assessment construction and provide a bridge from the assessment to classroom practice. For more ideas and sharing, teacher educators can access PARCC educator-developed resources on the PARCC Educator Leader Cadre Portal at http://parcc.nms.org, follow @PARCCPlace on Twitter, or sign up for the PARCC Updates newsletter for regular news and highlights from the consortium and its states.

As the assessments continue to become “real” in the coming months, teacher educators can focus on the benefits and opportunities that come with the rollout—and begin thinking creatively about how to prepare teachers to engage with the standards proactively.

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Callie Riley

Senior Policy Associate, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, Inc.

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