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Daily Dish: Studies Show PARCC and Smarter Balanced Better at Measuring Complex Learning Skills

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February 11, 2016 12:53 pm

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A study released today shows that the PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments provide a better gauge of the depth and complexity of academic skills than the ACT Aspire or Massachusetts state exam, the MCAS, reports Education Week. The research was conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and evaluated how well the tests emphasize grade-level content for a college-ready track, and how well the tests require students to demonstrate higher-order thinking skills. The tests evaluated at the fifth and eighth grade levels, and were conducted following the release of a report by the Council of Chief State School Officers on high-quality assessments.

Another study was conducted by the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) on the quality of next generation high school assessments, evaluating these same tests but at a high school level. The report resulted in a similar outcomes, showing that the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests “emphasize the most important content and require students to demonstrate the depth of work called for by college and career ready standards,” according to a press release on the report. “Both tests measure a wide range of real-world skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and analysis,” the release says.

As Ed Week notes,  the Fordham report shows that “all four tests ‘overwhelmingly’ are ‘more challenging—placing greater emphasis on higher-order skills—than prior state assessments,’ particularly in math.” The HumRRO report reaches a similar conclusion, explaining the study indicates that “many states are making the difficult but necessary move to designing and developing assessments that help ensure students are prepared to succeed after high school.”

A new survey on the Common Core State Standards shows that instructional changes are being made in the classroom to adjust to the standards, according to Ed Week. The study, conducted by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, shed light into Common Core implementation at the school level. Results showed that three quarters of teachers say they are embracing the standards in the classrooms. It also showed that there are also several school instructional-improvement strategies that have led to improving student outcomes under the common core, including “having more observations with explicit feedback; including standards-aligned student outcomes in teacher evaluations; and having more days of professional development.”

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