It will take Maryland students nearly twice as long to complete new state tests that the Maryland Department of Education says will more accurately measure college and career readiness.
Depending on grade level, completing the new math and English tests will take the typical student a total of 8 to 10 hours, combined, according to estimates released earlier this month by Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the multi-state consortium creating the tests. The PARCC tests, based on the Common Core standards, will be administered to students in students in grades 3 – 11, replacing existing Maryland assessments beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
In an e-mail to The Dagger, William Reinhard, spokesman for MSDE, explained:
“PARCC test times are slightly less than twice as long as the Maryland School Assessment and the High School Assessments in English and algebra. The increase in time allotted for the tests was both expected and necessary. The purpose of PARCC, in alignment with the Common Core State Standards, is to gauge student preparedness for college and careers of the 21st Century. Measuring accurately the kinds of knowledge and skill students will need – critical reading, writing, problem-solving in mathematics—requires tasks that are not only cognitively demanding but also somewhat time-consuming, especially when compared to the kinds of state tests that have been administered in the past.”
Unlike the once-per-year Maryland assessments, PARCC tests will be administered twice during the school year. A performance-based assessment (PBA) will be given about three-quarters of the way through, followed by an end-of-year (EOY) test. Each test will be administered in multiple sessions ranging from 40 – 85 minutes each, depending on grade level and subject matter.
Here’s a description of the math tests from PARCC:
“…PBAs at each grade level will include both short- and extended-response questions focused on conceptual knowledge and skills, and the mathematical practices of reasoning and modeling. The mathematics EOY assessments will be comprised primarily of short-answer questions focused on conceptual knowledge, skills, and understandings.”
For English Language Arts/ Literacy, PARCC says:
“…PBAs at each grade level will include three tasks: a research simulation, a literary analysis, and a narrative task. For each task, students will be asked to read one or more texts, answer several short comprehension and vocabulary questions, and write an essay that requires them to draw evidence from the text(s). The ELA/Literacy EOYs at each grade level will include 4-5 texts, both literary and informational (including social science/historical, scientific, and technical texts at grades 6-11). A number of short-answer comprehension and vocabulary questions will also be associated with each text.”
If you’re feeling smarter than a fifth grader, some sample questions in both subjects can be found here.
PARCC tests are expected to be taken on a computer, although the states can allow paper and pencil testing for some schools.
In response to questions from The Dagger about whether Harford County Public Schools has the necessary bandwidth and enough computers for the new tests, Drew Moore, HCPS director of technology, said through a spokesperson that evaluations of capacity are in progress, based on the specifications for computer-based testing provided most recently by PARCC. He said that refinements to the specifications were also expected from MSDE over the next six months.
The bottom line for students in Maryland, according to Reinhard, is that the new tests will provide better information about their progress, measured against higher expectations:
“The PARCC summative tests will address all of the Common Core Standards, which are broader and more rigorous than current Maryland standards. They also will provide valid and reliable scores for all students across a range of ability. As a result, longer assessment with more items is a consequence of those objectives.
From these new assessments will come more information that teachers, parents – and students – can actually use.”
Below is the estimated time on task released by PARCC, broken down by grade level and by session for the new exams in both subjects. PARCC may make revisions to the estimates based on field tests over the next 18 months. PARCC notes that extra time will be available for students with disabilities in accordance with their Individualized Education Plans, with more guidance to be released later this year.