Cumberland Times-News

March 26, 2014

Teachers to begin field-testing the new test

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— During the past three school years, educators have been making the transition to the full implementation of  Maryland’s College and Career-Ready Standards, developed from the Common Core, set to take place in 2014-2015.

This spring, randomly selected classes in schools throughout Maryland will be field testing the new Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments as the next step in this process.

The PARCC assessments represent the next generation of standardized testing which will be used to show that our students are progressing towards college and career readiness.

These tests, which are more rigorous than the MSA and HSA tests they will be replacing, require students to demonstrate their learning beyond the recall of facts and simple procedures.

The PARCC assessments will require students to show how they will apply their skills to solve a variety of real-world problems requiring the types of critical thinking, disciplinary literacy, computer literacy, and communication skills that higher education and the workforce demand.

The field testing of the PARCC assessments is an essential component of establishing the validity and reliability of these tests. Data collected from the field tests will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the test to measure what it is designed to measure.

The students who are taking the field test will effectively be “testing the test” so that the test developers can identify and correct flaws in the assessment before it counts for all students in the future.

In addition to the way that student learning is assessed, the method by which the PARCC assessment is given also reflects the needs of a technology-driven society.

Unlike the MSA and HSA, the PARCC assessments are designed to incorporate interactive technology. Students will use a variety of computer skills such as word processors, drag and drop, and drop down menus to answer questions as they work through the test.

While there still exists some uncertainty about what the PARCC assessments will look like and how our students will perform on them, we are ready to see the tests that we have been hearing about for three years.

Local test coordinators and teachers have received training on administering the tests. Students in the classes selected to take the field tests have been practicing with prototype questions for some time now.

The teachers administering the field tests will be among the first in the state to see a full PARCC assessment and the insight they gain will be invaluable to other teachers who will be giving the assessments in future years.

Information gathered from these field tests will enable local boards of education to further refine the curriculum to insure that future students are prepared to be successful on this assessment. It took some time for students, parents, and teachers to become comfortable with the format of the MSA and HSA tests.

It will take some time to adjust to the demands of the PARCC assessments as well. Teachers recognize that for our students to be college and career ready at graduation, we must change the way we teach and assess students.

Meeting  Maryland’s College and Career-Ready Standards, as assessed by PARCC, will put our students well on their way toward meeting that goal.

Steve Thompson, mathematics teacher

Fort Hill High School