Answering the Question: "What are the PARCC Online Math Assessments?"

Posted by Zack Blois on Nov 4, 2013 2:05:00 PM
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Have you heard of the new PARCC online assessments but don't know much about them? Maybe you know a bit about these online tests but parents or even your fellow staff are asking you "What are the PARCC online math assessments?"

PARCCIf so, you're not alone. We receive tons of requests for information regarding the makeup, functionality, and scope of these new Common Core-aligned tests.

That's why I put together this quick no-spin, no-frills introduction to help you get up-to-speed. This intro will cover the basics of what we know about the PARCC online assessments, including information on the consortium's goals, alignment measures, implementation, and testing format.

Overview of PARCC

The Partnership for Assessment of College and Careers (PARCC) was created to help states and school districts identify and improve the "college and career readiness" rate -- i.e. the rate in which students successfully graduate from high school and are well prepared for success in college and/or the workforce. The tests will be administered for the first time in the 2014-2015 school year.

It's important to note that the PARCC online math assessments are only one of two consortia that comprise the next generation assessment system -- the second is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Following the selection of PARCC and SBAC, the Common Core-adopting states were given the opportunity to select one of the two consortia as their means of measuring "college and career readiness".

As of 11/4/2013 (per PARCC), the below 19 states/districts have adopted the PARCC online assessments:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee


The primary goal of the PARCC online math assessments (see framework here) is to aid educators in boosting student learning by providing essential data. This data is compiled (and designed) to better inform instructional decisions, plan interventions, align professional development, and increase teacher and school effectiveness.

The assessments also aim to provide feedback on student achievement and mastery, inform decisions on whether students are college and career ready, and support the curricular and instructional needs of educators.

Online format

The shift to the PARCC online math assessments signifies a substantial change in the way children are assessed. Because the PARCC assessments will be almost exclusively administered online, this notion presents an additional challenge to students, teachers, and schools.

To prepare for the online element, school districts must ensure that the infrastructure and technology is sufficient and there is equal access for all students. Teachers and students must also work together during preparation time to understand the online platform/functionality and gain proficiency with the nature of the exam, as well as the assessed content.


The PARCC online math assessments are aligned with the Common Core State Standards in mathematics. Standards-based, grade level expectations are reflected in the items on the PARCC math assessments.

According to PARCC, the math assessments specifically target a student's conceptual understanding, procedural fluency and skills, and problem solving with real-world application. Furthermore, studies completed by the UCLA National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) indicate that these two next generation consortiums will present a sharp increase in the testing of "deeper understanding" and higher-order skills.

Data Reporting 

Another major component of the PARCC online assessments is its comprehensive data reporting. Combined data reporting is provided to states, districts, and schools and includes learning information for every individual student that participated in the assessment. This data includes an analysis of performance standards using a common set of rubrics developed by PARCC states. Students receive an annual accountability score that measures a student's post-secondary readiness.

Unfortunately, there is not much information yet on what these rubrics or data pieces will look like. According to PARCC's FAQ page, they expect to release more information regarding the data collection process by the end of the 2014 school year.


As I mentioned before, PARCC-adopting states will begin administering the online tests during the 2014-2015 school year. Both the math performance assessments and end of year assessments, administered as close to the end of the school year as possible, are required for all students in participating states.

Be aware, the tests are designed as online assessments but there will be a temporary modification available for students in grades 3-8 that allows for the use of a paper and pencil exam.

Share your PARCC preparations stories!

Don't let us tell the whole story! We'd love to hear your questions about the implementation and about the impact (positive or negative) you believe it will have on schools.

Comment below to begin your conversation, find us on Facebook to share your concerns, or tweet us at @Wowzers!

Click here to download the free Wowzers PARCC eBook

Topics: Common Core Assessments

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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