High-Stakes Testing | News

PARCC Releases Prototype Test Items for Next-Gen Assessments

One of the two consortia working on online versions of high-stakes tests has released its first set of exam item prototypes; and if these samples reflect the direction of the full array of next-generation assessments in language arts and math, students can mostly kiss the standard multiple-choice bubble question goodbye. Production versions of the new exams are scheduled to be administered for the first time in 2014-2015.

PARCC sample high school math question
Sample high school math item

The samples from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) require students to drag and drop fractions onto a scale, read an article, and select the most accurate summary of its claims, analyze four types of speed/time charts and order them from fastest to slowest, and enter the solution for a quadratic equation. Multiple choice questions still exist, but the expectation is that PARCC and its counterpart Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will release K-12 tests that better measure students' readiness for college and careers and make better use of technology in schools.

PARCC, a 23-state consortium, released the prototype items as early samples to give instructors, administrators, and the public an early look at what next generation assessment items could look like. Additional prototypes and rubrics will be added over the next couple of years to provide a more complete picture of the PARCC assessment design in each content area and grade level.

Along with the prototypes, the consortium has added information about the standard being measured, the type of assessment on which it would appear, and a link to the PARCC Model Content Frameworks.

"The prototypes are a first step in demonstrating what is possible with new assessment technology that captures students' application of knowledge and skills that are essential to success in the 21st century," said Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, chair of the PARCC Governing Board. "The prototypes are illustrative of the next-generation PARCC assessment system that reflects the Common Core State Standards."

sample grade 7 math item
Sample grade 7 math item

In a statement, PARCC added that it will ensure accessibility in test administration and assessment design through its use of the principles of Universal Design and include supports to make the tests as accessible as possible to the greatest number of students.

PARCC grade 7 sample language arts question
Sample grade 7 language arts item

PARCC worked with a number of contracted partners to develop the first round of samples, including Achieve, which serves as the project management partner for PARCC; Student Achievement Partners, which includes Common Core State Standards writers, upon which the assessments are based; ETS and Pearson, which are both doing item development; the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Learning; and the University of Texas at Austin's Dana Center, which produced five math items. Illustrative Mathematics and Bill McCallum of the University of Arizona also provided support to the development of the math prototypes. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation funded the creation of the prototypes.

At the same time, PARCC released an updated version of its Model Content Frameworks, which includes a search browser, an online glossary, and direct references back to the state standards, to make it more accessible and user-friendly.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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