Common Core State Standards Assessment Samples: Hot Off the Presses!

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On Monday, August 20, the PARCC Assessment Consortium released sample items and task prototypes that provide insight into how the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be assessed in many states in 2014–2015.

Sample items from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will be available to member states through a pilot test scheduled to be released in early 2013.

Two Big Takeaways from PARCC:

1. PARCC has developed Model Content Frameworks to inform instruction for the CCSS, and their assessments will also be developed using these frameworks. As a result, teachers will be able to avoid “teaching to the test.” Instead, the assessments will follow the instruction, as determined by the content frameworks.

2. PARCC is continually emphasizing the “shifts” in Common Core in their assessment design. The major shifts in ELA and mathematics are outlined below.

Highlights for ELA

PARCC will adhere to the following CCSS shifts:

  • Text complexity – The standards require close reading and writing about complex texts with academic vocabulary.
  • Evidence – The standards require reading and writing that are grounded in text evidence.
  • Building knowledge – The standards require reading and writing across the disciplines of science and social studies.

PARCC presents and discusses three innovative ELA item types:

  • Evidence-based selected response (EBSR) – A traditional selected-response item will be followed by an item that asks students to show the text evidence that led them to the answer in the first item.
  • Technology-enhanced constructed response (TECR) – These items will measure students’ understanding of texts using technologies such as drag and drop, cut and paste, highlighting, and arranging items to show relationships.
  • Range of prose constructed response (PCR) – These items will be essays that measure students’ understanding of texts through written expression. Language conventions will also be measured. Each annual performance-based assessment will contain FOUR of these items.

The Research Simulation Task

The PARCC assessments will also include performance tasks that differ from traditional assessments in two ways. First, these tasks are designed to mirror and measure more real-world skills, such as research, synthesis, and writing. Second, the tasks will be completed over an extended length of time.

For ELA, PARCC has described a research simulation as a sample of the performance task:

  • In session 1, students will read an “anchor text,” answer EBSR and TECR items about the text, and write a short summary of the text.
  • In session 2, students will read two additional texts or sources and answer more EBSR and TECR items about them. Students will then synthesize their understanding of all three sources by writing an analytical essay.

Highlights for Math

PARCC will adhere to the following CCSS shifts:

  • Focus – The PARCC assessments will focus on the CCSS, which are often narrower but deeper than traditional state standards. In order to match this focus, the PARCC assessments may incorporate a variety of problem types to address a single concept. In this way, students will demonstrate their mastery of concepts at a deeper level.
  • Coherence – Like the CCSS, the PARCC assessments will connect across grade levels and link skills that build on each other. Integrative tasks will deal with multiple standards, highlighting this connection and coherence.
  • Rigor – The PARCC assessments will pursue conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application. Rigor will be addressed through innovations in item design.

PARCC presents and discusses the following innovations in item formats and assessment design:

  • Items may include simulations that call for improving a model, responding to game-like environments, or constructing diagrams or other visual models.
  • Items will avoid the limitations of traditional multiple-choice items with formats such as drag and drop, selected response with multiple correct answers, and multi-step tasks.
  • Items will capture more complex student responses with the use of drawing tools and other technology.
  • Items will demonstrate rigor through multi-step tasks.
  • Items may include tasks that require written explanations of mathematical reasoning.

Learn more about these developments and view the PARCC sample items.

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