New computer-based assessment begins this school year -- Gazette.Net


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The days of filling in circles with No. 2 pencils are numbered in Maryland.

This year, all students will take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment, or PARCC, which is designed to test on Common Core standards and will provide a measure by which students across multiple states can be compared.

Last spring, approximately one million students nationwide took the PARCC Field Test, which was administered to randomly selected schools across the country.

“It seems pretty easy to use. The tools are all pretty straightforward and easy,” said Abiola Bakare of Upper Marlboro, 14, a ninth-grader at Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale.

To date, 40 states have agreed to adopt the Common Core standards, a national set of rigorous standards designed to prepare students for college and career readiness, according to the Common Core website, corestandards.org.

PARCC will replace the Maryland School Assessment, or MSA, and High School Assessment, or HSA, used in Maryland. The HSA Algebra and English portions will continue to be administered until 2016 to meet graduation requirements.

Abiola was among those students selected to field test the PARCC last spring. He and his classmates took an online tutorial in March.

“It’s kind of like the MSA, but it’s online, and that makes it much easier to use.”

As PARCC is designed to be an online test, requiring schools to have sufficient access to broadband technology, some schools may opt to take a paper version of the test, said Judy Jenkins, director of curriculum for the Maryland State Department of Education.

The paper version is only temporary, however, and is scheduled to be phased out in three years, with the possibility of extending the deadline if school systems appear to be having difficulties, Jenkins said.

The PARCC assessment will go into widespread use across Common Core states this school year, in grades 3 and higher, according the PARCC website, parcconline.org.

Beverly Pish, acting director of Prince George’s County Public Schools department of testing, said PARCC will be administered in two parts: a writing section in March and a multiple choice section in May or June. A single score will be calculated from both sections.

PARCC was developed with computer-embedded features to eliminate any potential bias based on cultural background and with accommodations for English language learners, according to the PARCC website.

“With the first operational administration of the test [this school] year, they will use the summer to score the tests,” Pish said. “In the first year, parents may not see scores until the following fall.”

Jenkins described PARCC as a “beyond the bubble” test.

“You’re not just going to answer questions, you’re going to have to justify your responses,” Jenkins said.

Students will be asked to read real text, not text developed for the test, and select passages that reinforce their answers. They will also answer questions based on video and use a variety of online tools, including options that allow students to highlight, magnify or click and drag text and eliminate wrong answers.

“In many ways, I think the technology will help us show what we know better,” Jenkins said.

Adaeze Okere, 15, of Upper Marlboro, also a Flowers student, said the online aspect made it easier, but the variety of tasks students are asked to perform makes it more challenging.

“They’re really asking you to do a lot,” Adaeze said.

Earnest Moore of Landover, past president of the Prince George’s County PTA Council, said it is important for parents to become engaged in their children’s education and to raise any questions they may have about PARCC with school officials and parent organizations.

“Engaged families bring so much added value and resources to the table that make any educational change or transition a lot smoother for all parties,” Moore said.

The PARCC website, www.parcconline.org, features resources for students and parents as well as sample questions.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net