Update to the Test Design

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By Laura Slover

As a high school English teacher I was constantly assessing (informally and formally) what my kids had learned and what I needed to teach or re-teach differently.  In my experience, assessing is just part of teaching. Assessments are not a break from instruction – they are an integral part of instruction. 

The PARCC states have embraced this belief, too: that high quality assessments and high quality standards go hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other. In fact, high quality assessments are tied to quality instruction.

In our effort to design and implement high quality assessments that measure important content like writing, critical thinking, analysis and problem solving, the PARCC states have long insisted on the right tests, not more tests.  PARCC assessments should contain enough items to accurately measure the breadth of student understanding, but not more items than are necessary.

With that in mind, experts from the PARCC states recently reviewed the PARCC ELA/Language arts assessment design to see if it was the right mix of text passages and questions.

I’m happy to report that reviewers concluded that the PARCC states could reduce the number of test questions and passages, especially in the lower grade levels, and still provide the information that teachers, students and parents need to measure student progress and adjust instruction, and that schools and states need to be able to compare student progress. Meanwhile, the PARCC states are in the midst of a thorough review of the data on how long students spent answering questions on the field test. In a few weeks, we will be able to give school districts and schools clear information about how long tests will take so they can schedule their spring 2015 testing, a major undertaking. (We are also getting ready to provide technical assistance to school leaders on ways to do that.)

Learn more about the changes to the ELA/literacy portion of the test

Laura Slover is the CEO of PARCC, Inc., the nonprofit managing the assessment project for the PARCC states.