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FIELD TEST: Students Felt Comfortable with Computer-Based Format, Challenged by Math Portion of Common Core Field Test, Finds New PARCC Report

As students across the country begin the first wave of full implementation of new assessments this month, a new report by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) suggests the majority of students are ready for the assessment, but they could be better prepared for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)–aligned math portion.

More than 1.1 million students in 16,000 schools across fourteen states and the District of Columbia were surveyed during a PARCC spring field test. Of those surveyed, 90 percent said they had sufficient time to complete the test and understood the directions on both the computer-based and written versions of the English language arts (ELA)/literacy tests; 83 percent said the same of the mathematics test.

Though the computer format of the test had been a concern of educators and parents, students who participated in the computer-based field test said they found it to be “engaging” and had no major issues with the set up.

In terms of the content of the assessment, 53 percent of students said the ELA/literacy portion of the test reflected what they had learned in school, while roughly 64 percent of students said the math portion was more challenging than their course work, signifying less familiarity with the math content.

Test Difficulty GraphBased on this feedback, the report, PARCC Field Test: Lessons Learned, asserts educators could better prepare students for the CCSS math content of the test.

While there were no major system glitches discovered during the field test, the report cites several issues with the PARCC assessment that require improvement, including training and directions for test administrators and coordinators, who were also surveyed during the field test. Key improvements identified in the report include revising general directions—especially on the math tests—to make them clearer; revising manuals, training modules, and tutorials; and expanding practice tests to include paper-based components.

The PARCC assessment, along with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are the first and only assessments aligned with the CCSS, which are currently being implemented in more than forty states nationwide. Both tests are ready for use for the current 2014–15 school year.

In October, Smarter Balanced released its field test report, Smarter Balanced “Tests of the Test” Successful: Field Test Provides Clear Path Forward, which finds that 67 percent of students across five of the thirteen states surveyed found the entirely computer-based testing interface “easy” or “very easy” to use. Similar to the PARCC report, Smarter Balanced students commented that the content of the assessments were more challenging than what they had learned in class, particularly in mathematics. And only one in three high school students found the Smarter Balanced test “somewhat well” or “very well” aligned with their classroom instruction.

“At every grade level, but particularly as students go off into institutions of higher education, we want to be able to say that with great confidence whether a student goes through a Smarter Balanced assessment state or a PARCC assessment state that the information that higher education is getting, colleges and universities, is comparable in terms of its reliability and validity for getting kids into credit bearing courses without the need for remediation,” said Laura Slover, chief executive officer of PARCC, during an Alliance for Excellent Education webinar in October.

PARCC Field Test: Lessons Learned is available at http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/field-test-lessons-learned.pdf.

Smarter Balanced “Tests of the Test” Successful: Field Test Provides Clear Path Forward is available at http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SmarterBalanced_FieldTest_Report.pdf.

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