PARCC Task Prototypes and New Sample Items for ELA/literacy

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New! Try out sample test questions in their intended environment.

The primary purpose of sharing samples of PARCC items is to provide information about the assessment system and support educators as they transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the PARCC tests. The samples presented here are designed to shine a light on important elements of the CCSS and to show how critical content in the standards may appear in PARCC’s next-generation, technology-based assessments. Samples can be found by clicking on each grade level on the left menu.

There are two types of samples found on these pages: Task Prototypes, which were released in August 2012; and, Sample Items, which were released beginning on August 19, 2013. The task prototypes were created to provide viable early models to guide item development. The new sample items represent the current state of PARCC item development and provide users a snapshot of what the 2014-2015 assessments will look like. The new sample items are first presented in PDF format to emphasize a focus on the content of the items. 


Considerations for Using Task Prototypes and Sample Items



Considerations for Using Task Prototypes and New Sample Items


To aid educators and experts in the field and gather additional feedback for the item development process, PARCC released a set of prototypes in 2012 that were reviewed by content and assessment experts in the PARCC states. While they continue to be useful for implementation purposes, the prototypes were PARCC’s “best guess” at standards-aligned items and did not undergo the extensive review process and field testing that will be carried out before any items are included on actual PARCC assessments. In contrast with the prototypes, the new sample items were developed through the same process as items that will populate the PARCC assessments—one that included reviews by content, bias and assessment experts in PARCC and focused on rigor of content, alignment to the standards and evidence statements and addressed bias and sensitivity review guidance. The sample items are primarily for the purposes of communications and training around the type of items one will see on the PARCC Assessments.

The sample items are not intended to be a practice test, and are not meant to mirror full-length assessments that address the full range of the CCSS. Field testing for all operational PARCC items will occur in spring 2014.

Because the sample items have been developed to illustrate how the various items types are being created to measure PARCC evidence statements, and because they are first presented as PDFs, they do not appear exactly in the form they will take when included on actual PARCC assessment online delivery platform. However, accompanying each sample item are annotations to support the user in gaining a deeper understanding of PARCC and the CCSS. To ensure consistent stylistic elements, all PARCC assessment items are being written to adhere to criteria addressed in the PARCC Style Guides.

PARCC ELA/Literacy Rubrics (Updated and Refined)

The PARCC ELA/literacy Rubrics have been updated to reflect lessons learned from the extensive PARCC field test. These rubrics are included in the available materials to help support a stronger understanding of what the Prose Constructed Response items are asking students to know and be able to do.  

Updates include:

  • Score points for the Conventions trait were reduced from 4 score points to 3 points. Educators saw that there was not enough difference between student responses to have both a score point of 4 and a score point of 3 and apply the rubric with reliability.
  • PARCC created a separate rubric for scoring of narrative writing. The narrative criteria for Written Expression was separated so that both teachers and scorers could easily apply the correct criteria.

  • PARCC added an additional bullet for score point 1 in Written Expression. During the review of the field test items, educators saw responses that were well-developed and text-based, but not clearly tied to the prompt. Language was added to score point 1 to recognize the writing ability demonstrated in this type of response. 

  • While the criteria themselves did not change, the descriptors for some score points were refined to clearly delineate the lines between score points and to ensure clarity of the criteria.

Click to see the PARCC rubrics for Grade 3, Grade 4-5, and Grades 6-11.

In addition, PARCC has provided two white papers to support readiness for PARCC. The first paper provides ideas on how to use the draft rubrics during classroom instruction. The second paper provides a sample of writing forms that may be used to elicit student writing on the PARCC Summative Assessments for ELA/Literacy.


PARCC's Alignment to the Common Core


PARCC assessments will be tightly aligned to the Common Core State Standards and grounded in the key shifts at the heart of the Common Core State Standards. There are three shifts in English language arts (ELA)/literacy, described below. These are shifts the Standards require of teachers and students – and they will be reflected in the PARCC assessments as well. This will help ensure that the assessments mirror the expectations of the classroom.


Common Core Shifts for ELA/Literacy


  1. Complexity: The standards require regular practice with complex text and its academic language
  2. Evidence: The standards emphasize reading and writing grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational
  3. Knowledge: The standards require building knowledge through content rich non-fiction


Advances in the PARCC Assessments


Better standards require better tests – and the shifts in the standards call for critical advances in assessment quality. PARCC will develop custom items and tasks aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

In regards to the ELA/Literacy assessments, this means PARCC will include:

  • Texts worth reading: The assessments will use authentic texts worthy of study and that are motivating and engaging to read, instead of artificially produced or commissioned passages.
  • Questions worth answering, which includes:
  • Sequences of questions that draw students into deeper encounters with texts (as in an excellent classroom), rather than sets of random questions of varying quality.
  • Items that allow students to demonstrate what they know, rather than what they don’t know—where items allow for partial credit
  • Items that allow for expression of divergent thinking
  • Use of technology to allow students to construct meaning for machine-scorable items


PARCC's Development Process


The PARCC development process prioritized understanding the Standards and high quality instruction first. To ensure that the assessment will be based on a rich model of instruction aligned with the CCSS, the PARCC Model Content Frameworks for educators were developed based on the Standards before the assessment blueprints were designed. The Model Content Frameworks were developed through a state-led process led by ELA/literacy content experts in PARCC member states, including teachers, higher education representatives, and members of the Common Core State Standards writing team. The Frameworks highlight key elements of excellent instruction aligned with the CCSS, and in turn, informed the assessment blueprint design.


PARCC's Commitment to Accessibility


PARCC is committed to providing all students with equitable access to its high-quality assessments. PARCC assessment items and tasks are being developed using principles of universal design. Universal design principles are applied in all kinds of environments to make things as usable as possible by all, regardless of age, ability or life status.

In the area of student assessment, this means writing items and tasks free of design features that are irrelevant to the content being assessed. For example, a commitment to using plain language, rather than unnecessarily complex language structures in a mathematics problem, allows all students the opportunity to better demonstrate their mathematical understanding. This is especially important for English language learner (ELLs) for whom complex English language structures in test items could interfere with a student’s ability to demonstrate his or her mathematics skills and knowledge.

In its commitment to Universal Design, PARCC is working to provide accessible test administration as well as accessible assessment design. Accordingly, PARCC will take advantage of its computer-based assessments to build in supports that are not possible with paper-based tests. For example, students will be able to control the size of the text in a question to meet their needs; supporting all students, and making it less likely that students with some visual impairments will require special accommodations.

All students will have access to certain word processing tools to write their essays, but one that will be especially helpful to students is the spell checker feature. Illustrations of items with these and similar accessibility features will be demonstrated on future additions to this website.

While external accommodations may still be needed for some students to demonstrate what they know and can do, use of principles of universal design and built-in supports will increase access to the greatest number of students taking the assessments, and greatly reduce the burden on school staff to provide extensive accommodations during testing. This assessment format provides a more “real world” environment for students and leverages technology for student access.





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