The 2014-2015 Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the aligned online assessments (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) deadline is rapidly approaching. Generally, we have known a lot more about the standards than we did about the tests, but over the past few months we have seen quite a bit of info come out about the new assessments.
We've put together a quick primer of recent information and news to help you get up to speed on what to expect from these CCSS-aligned assessments.
Know the components of an online assessment system
It's first important to note that these online assessments are not a one-shot deal. They have many components built in throughout the school year, designed to help educators identify student knowledge levels and create goals and strategies to help students gain their needed achievement and progress levels.
Using PARCC as an example, the components include:
- Diagnostic assessments in reading, writing, and mathematics available throughout the year (see final section for more info on PARCC's diagnostic assessments)
- Mid-year assessments in English language arts (ELA), literacy, and mathematics.
- Performance-based assessments (PBA) in ELA/literacy and mathematics.
- End-of-year assessments (EOY) in ELA/literacy and math.
For the required end of-year assessment, students demonstrate acquired skills and knowledge by answering computer-based questions that are automatically graded. This will be a huge shift for many states who have been testing via the traditional pencil-and-paper methods.
- For more info on the PARCC components, check out this helpful PDF: "PARCC Frequently Asked Questions - September 2013"
Smarter Balanced pilot and practice tests are now available
The folks at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) recently released a set of online practice tests in efforts to give educators in SBAC-adopting states great insight into their online Common Core assessments. Available well in advance of the 2014-15 implementation of online assessments, these practice tests and examples allow you (and your students) to experience the online testing features first-hand.
Compatible with most major web browsers and accessible on a wide range of computers and handheld devices, the preview assessments give a great first look into the test's functionality and appearance across multiple grades. However, it's important to note that these practice tests don't encompass the full range of content on the spring 2014 Field Test.
- To access the Smarter Balanced practice tests, go to "Practice and Pilot Tests - Smarter Balanced"
- For more info on the practice tests and what they offer you as an educator, check out our blog post, "Smarter Balanced Expands Online Practice Tests and Resources"
Early adopters see decrease in initial progress scores
Three states, New York, Minnesota, and Kentucky, have already begun aligning their standardized tests to the CCSS. According to an article from the T.H.E. Journal, each of the three states saw a significant drop in scores after administering CCSS-aligned tests.
According to the article, these drops can be attributed to two overlying factors:
- Test-format transfer poses initial setbacks - The change from paper to digital test administration seems to present an initial negative trend on student scores. The prevailing thought is, as students become more familiar with the online testing format, their progress will increase.
- Common Core standards are more rigorous - The article states that the standards are "more difficult than many preexisting state achievement exams." This is a different animal than testing format setbacks because the resuls are more tied to a lack of needed knowledge, not a lack of familiarity.
Don't worry, there is good news! Obviously, moving to online assessment administration is a format change for nearly every CCSS-adopting state. However, by integrating digital assessment use in the classroom throughout the year, schools can make efforts to minimize the effects of the drastic test-format transfer. (Hint, Hint: The Wowzers online math assessments can serve as a great method to model online assessments for your students. Click here to check them out.)
Schools are also seeking to meet the more rigorous standards by introducing needed academic content earlier in a student's learning path. Because of the long-term nature of these changes to curriculum and learning paths, it will likely take multiple years to produce visible results on online Common Core assessments.
PARCC Diagnostic tools will be available early 2015
PARCC is developing diagnostic assessment tools in reading, writing, and mathematics for teachers to use at any time during the academic year in efforts to track student mastery of the new standards. The diagnostic tools are designed to help inform instruction throughout the year and are expected to be available early 2015, per a PARCC release from last July.
The overarching purpose of these diagnostic tools are to help teachers evaluate student understanding within the constructs of the new standards and the PARCC test components. The teacher can then utilize the results to prescribe strategic efforts to provide students needed reinforcement and help.
- To learn more about PARCC's proposed diagnostic testing tools, check out this "PARCC Diagnostic Assesments and K-1 Formative Assessment Tools" PDF
Tell us about your online testing prep efforts!
We selected these four points for this month's primer, but there is a lot more info out there about the online assessments. If you'd like to learn more, I recommend starting with the "Assessments" section of our Wowzers Blog.
But, don't let us tell the whole story! We'd love to hear about your online assessment experiences, comments, or worries -- feel free to join the conversation in the Comments section below, via our Facebook Page, or tweet us at @Wowzers.