Monday, January 18, 2021

PARCC shows how to use released test questions


The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, released some real test questions from the 2015 tests in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and high school a few months ago, and now the multistate testing consortium has produced a guide that would be useful to students and parents to explain how to use the test questions to prepare for the test.

The new guide, which was published online on January 7, is designed to help users of the PARCC tests navigate the test questions and related materials, including sample student responses that received high scores and low scores. The student responses also include explanations that give parents, teachers, and students specific guidance on how student work is scored.

Almost 850 test questions are online, and most of them aren’t simple multiple-choice questions. PARCC also said the list of resources that accompany the questions “can be pretty daunting,” especially for someone who’s not a teacher.

The guide therefore explains some terms used in the resources, including “scoring rubric,” “alignment documents,” and “medium/long (M/L) informational text set.” Because the new type of test is harder than former state tests and aligned to a different set of learning standards or objectives, some new terms have crept into our vocabulary as educators.

The low utility value of PARCC student reports, I believe, at least compared to report cards or teacher conferences, means this expansion of our vocabulary is artificial and driven primarily by federal and state laws, rather than any education-related mission. I can, however, be pragmatic and say, if you’re in a state that will use PARCC test questions on exams you have to take, spend a little time to get comfortable with the new style and type of test. It’s not like anything your parents took when they were in school.

We can spend time arguing over whether that’s a good or bad thing, or we can get to work. I hope this new guide, filled with information, will help.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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