What is the need to introduce a fresh set of high-stake assessments- tests that are difficult, and time-consuming?
As the testing season progresses, parents and teachers are continuously raising these questions, and desire to understand the need to introduce new standards that necessitate a novel style of instruction and learning.
In this article, we answer these questions, and explain why the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and standards-based assessments score over the present-day "teaching for the test" environment.
The Common Core State Standards
In 2009, a teacher’s consortium, with states-wide representation released an innovative set of academic standards. These standards act as an achievement guide for school districts, school management and teachers.
Instead of telling teachers what students should be taught, Common Core defines what students should learn in their respective grade.
In brief, CCSS defines the learning-expectations for grade 1 to 12 in Math and English.
The new standards attempt to enhance the quality of K12 education, and provide our high-school graduates with skills essential for career and college.
This aims at addressing the skill-gap haunting the dismal job-market and providing students with skills needed for the new-age work-environment.
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Key advances of Common CoreThe standards build upon the current-day state standards, and incorporate various advances based on the learning standards employed across the globe.
These advances anchor themselves in the concept of Career and college readiness, or CCR.
Key advances in CCSS Math
The new standards pay more attention on clarity, coherence and focus on concepts.
For each grade, CCSS defines a certain number of important topics. And suggests a model that ensures coherent progress of each student.
Common Core Standards pay attention on enhancing procedural fluency, and basic understanding of concepts and skills.
They pay more attention on increasing rigor in grade level mathematics, so that students develop procedural fluency based on reasoning and understanding of concepts across the grades.
Teach mathematics at high school as per conceptual categories.
Key advances in CCSS English
Most important of shifts in CCSS English is emphasizing compulsory attention on real-life texts and informational-texts.
They pay greater attention on preparing students for higher text complexity;
More emphasis on argument, informative/explanatory writing and research;
Speaking and listening skills;
It clarifies literary standards for history, science, and technical subjects.
Standardized TestingAdopting new standards also necessitates modern assessments.
Standardized testing measures student-growth and achievement, and informs teachers regarding instruction.
The PARCC Assessments
Schools administering PARCC assessments will have five assessments on their table.
These assessments will have either a summative or a non-summative component or both. Administrable at different intervals, these assessments will provide the schools, teachers and parents with data to improve student performance.
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Purpose of PARCC Assessments
Inform whether students are on-track for success;
Assess students for the full range of Common Core Standards;
Provide student performance data during the academic year;
Provide useable data to inform instruction, interventions and professional development;
Provide data for accountability.
Components of PARCC Assessments
1. Summative Assessment ComponentsIt evaluates student learning of an instructional unit by comparing their performance against some standard or benchmark.
These are often high-stake, which means that they have a high point value.
Information from summative assessments is formative; and help teachers and students to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.
2. Non-Summative Assessment ComponentsIt is a collection of standards-based, non-summative assessment practices.
These assessments provide a model of how to build standard mastery through the school year. They also provide opportunities for students to have opportunities to experience more challenging tasks by the end of the school year.
PARCC assessments provide deep evidence that teachers can analyze whether students are on-track at applying CCSS expectations.
5 Components of PARCC Assessment
Diagnostic assessments report student’s knowledge and skills.
Schools and teachers can tailor instruction, student-supports and professional-development programs to meet student’s needs.
These are non-summative and optional assessments.
Mid-year assessments comprise of performance-based items and tasks, with an emphasis on hard-to-measure standards.
After study, individual states may consider including as a summative component.
They too are non-summative and optional assessments.
Performance-based assessments (PBA) are compulsory assessments, administered close to the end of the school year as possible.
ELA/literacy PBA will focus on writing effectively when analyzing text; while mathematics PBA focuses on applying skills, concepts, and understandings to solve multi-step problems requiring abstract reasoning, precision, perseverance, and strategic use of tools.
End-of-Year assessments (EOY) are summative and compulsory assessments, and administered after approx. 90% of the school year.
The ELA/literacy EOY focuses on reading comprehension; and math EOY comprises of innovative, machine-scorable items.
Speaking and listening assessments are optional assessments.
They will measures how well students absorb information by listening, and how skillfully they communicate that knowledge orally.
Teachers will score students based on student-produced content based on what they present or what they hear.
Shifts in Math and ELA/L)expectations
Major shift in ELA/L expectations
Read sufficiently complex texts independently;
Write effectively to source;
Build and present knowledge through research.
Major shift in Math expectations
Solve problems: content and mathematical practice;
Model real-world problems;
Have fluency with mathematics.
Goals of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)
Create high-quality assessments
Students need to display their skills critical-thinking skills and problem-solving skills.
PARCC uses summative and non-summative components of testing to provide teachers and students with precise state of student learning and help teachers identify student-strengths and weaknesses.
Build a well guided pathway for high-school students to succeed with college
Regular testing generates reliable student-achievement data, and ensures that students are on their way to career and college readiness.
In high-school students take tests that generate a college-readiness score to identify students who are ready to handle college-level coursework and those who need intensive instruction.
PARCC reports allow teachers to provide targeted intervention and timely intervention.
Furthermore, teachers get the opportunity to administer bridge-courses to ensure that students have a smoother and successful first year in college.
Support educators in the classroom
They report student’s strengths and weaknesses; help teachers understand the effects of current pedagogy, and adopt changes to improve student performance.
Develop 21st century technology-based assessment
Furthermore, the accommodations provided by PARCC and SBAC ensure that even the students of SWD and ELL group get an equal opportunity to progress at the same rate.
Increase accountability at all levels
Ensure that schools and districts maintain effectiveness;
Highlight educator effectiveness;
Help map student performance in placement tests.
Allow comparison with other state level and international benchmarks.
PARCC ELA/literacy assessments:The most important quality that any assessment should have is that they should not distract the class from the learning process and should become natural inheritance to classroom instruction. PARCC designs are evidently easy and exciting.
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What to expect with PARCC assessments?
More complex texts: Students need to prepare for more real-life problems, and should be comfortable with the embedded academic language.
Students will have to develop skills for close and careful reading; moreover, the skill of identifying words that pervade the provided text.
Evidence based tasks: Student will have to prepare to answer questions based on evidence, derived from the provided text; be ready to cite evidence rigorously; and generate more evidence-based responses.
Build Knowledge through provided-text: Student must learn to build knowledge base based on the provided text.
Questions test students for their critical and problem-solving skills, so students must develop their skill of comparing texts, and synthesizing ideas.
PARCC Math assessments:
More focus on core-standards: For success, students need to master the subject to meet a pre-defined standard.
As the standards define what a student should know by a specific grade.
Students who expand their math base to achieve mastery of standard of their particular standard have higher chances of success.
Coherence: students need to focus on their skills of being able to connect two or more concepts to solve a problem.
They may have to connect more than one concept and create solutions
Rigor: Just like ELA/Literacy standards, students will have to pay attention on mastery of standards.
They must develop skills of fluency and conceptual understanding; learn procedural skills and concept-application; and be ready to solve questions based on real-world problems.
Benefits of PARCC Assessments:
PARCC will help build a pathway to College and Career Readiness for all students;
It will improve student’s engagement in assessments with innovative tasks and giving access to accommodations;
Increased access to and provision of accommodations for SWDs and ELLs;
Efficient scoring by combining human and automated approaches;
Valid, reliable and timely reports through-out the year to inform instruction, intervention and professional development.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) makes testing of student a compulsory task for our school districts.
Unfortunately, the present-day testing, famously known as the bubble tests call for no skill other than memorization and its application.
Testing has become an annual exercise of collecting test scores; of labeling students as a success or failure. In contrast, PARCC assesses students with innovative test items, better accommodations, reliable scoring and timely feedback.
This provides our education system an opportunity to look beyond collection of accountability data and pay attention on student development.