Common Knowledge on the Common Core State Standards and Assessment
As many schools across the nation begin to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the next question for many educators is, “How will these standards be assessed?” The answer to this question is, of course, complicated and still developing, so I wanted to provide a quick guide to some relevant information about the current developments in CCSS assessments. An understanding of the development of these assessments will allow schools to transition more effectively to the Common Core State Standards from the beginning, because they can focus on the key aspects of the standards and prepare for the innovative ways the standards will be assessed.
CCSS Assessment Consortia
There are two comprehensive assessment groups that have been awarded Race to the Top funds to develop CCSS assessments: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced).
In addition, three groups will develop assessments for special populations. Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) and the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) are both working on alternative assessments, and the Assessment Services Supporting English Learners through Technology Systems (ASSETS) Consortium will develop an assessment for English-language proficiency.
PARCC vs. Smarter Balanced
- Like the Common Core State Standards themselves, the assessment consortia are widely supported. PARCC has 24 states that are either governing or participating in the consortium; Smarter Balanced has 27.
- Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced are designing assessments to measure students’ understanding of the full range of CCSS. Both consortia are identifying key standards that will be the focus of assessments; however, it is important to note that the assessment focus is broader than that of traditional high-stakes assessments, due to the inclusion of more innovative item types and performance-based assessments or tasks.
- Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced are planning to develop assessment systems. In other words, the consortia are not planning only single, end-of-the-year tests, but rather a group of assessment tools that can be used to inform teaching and learning. This means formative assessments will be available for use throughout the school year, and summative assessments will be available for use at the end of a school year or course.
- Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced are designing assessments that will be delivered via computers.
- Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced are developing performance-based assessments or tasks as part of the end-of-the-year, summative assessment. These performance tasks will be included in accountability measures. The performance-based tasks will:
- Take much longer than traditional assessment items
- Provide more “real-world” tasks, such as extended research tasks
- Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced will provide innovative, technology-enhanced item types.
- Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced will provide traditional selected-response item types.
- Smarter Balanced is designing a computer-adaptive assessment. This means that Smarter Balanced’s summative assessment will adjust by presenting harder questions or easier questions as needed in order to measure each student’s ability level.
- PARCC’s summative assessment will be “fixed form.” This means all students will receive statistically identical test items for any given grade/subject/course — that is, the assessments will be nonadaptive.
CCSS Assessment FAQs
Question: When will the CCSS assessments be implemented?
Answer: Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced are committed to implementation in the 2014–15 school year. Field testing will begin in 2012–13 and continue in 2013–14. Because of this timeline, schools have just two years to implement Common Core and prepare for the new assessments.
Question: Will the CCSS assessments be entirely composed of innovative item types and performance-based tasks?
Answer: Although innovative item types and performance-based tasks are a component of both PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments, both consortia will also include a large portion of more traditional “selected-response” items.
Question: When will details such as item specifications and sample item types be available from PARCC and Smarter Balanced?
Answer: These details are still in draft form and are expected to be formalized in the summer of 2012.
CCSS Assessment Resources
The Center for K–12 Assessment & Performance Management at ETS has many excellent resources.
Its latest overview can be found here.
How prepared is your district for the CCSS? What do you think about the PARCC and Smarter Balanced efforts, as well as those of the other consortia preparing for the CCSS assessments? Let us know in the comments section!
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