PARCC Assessment Update: The Reasons Behind Testing in Two Parts (PBA and EOY)

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As part of their regular communication, PARCC released a monthly update on their consortium’s tests that are upcoming in the spring of 2015. Through this update, PARCC offered a glimpse into the rationale for two part testing. According to PARCC, the “PARCC states agreed to break the test into smaller sections in order to measure different kinds of knowledge and skills and to give students adequate time to show what they know and what they can do.”

Assessing a student on a single day, in a single moment, does not always accurately reflect what the student knows or how well he knows it. Illness, difficult circumstances, simply having an ‘off’ day, can alter how well a student performs on a single test. PARCC understands this aspect of students and has designed their overall assessment program to include this idea. Assessment under PARCC is more about the overall performance of a student in terms of the skills they will need to be successful in the future, whether in the job force or in college.

With this in mind, PARCC has designed their system to include multi-part testing, with two components being required: the Performance Based Assessment (PBA) and the End of Year Assessment (EOY).

The PBA is given in early spring, once approximately 75% of the year has been completed. According to PARCC, this assessment “captures critical thinking, reasoning and application skills through “extended tasks.” Students read passages from real texts – fiction and non-fiction, and sometimes watch video or listen to audio. Then they write, using what they’ve learned from the passages and multi-media sources to support their arguments. These skills are critically important for students in college and the workplace. In the past, students have typically been asked to write only once each in elementary, middle, and high school. PARCC measures writing at every grade level because it is key to college and career readiness. In mathematics, students solve multi-step problems that require reasoning and address real world situations. This requires students to use mathematical reasoning, make sense of quantities and their relationships to solve real-world problems, and show their understanding. Many previous assessments focused mostly on rote procedure only.”

PARCC Test Practice: Online Resources for Educators

The EOY assessment component is given once 90% of the year has been completed and is focused more on short answer, mostly machine scorable items. Again, according to PARCC, this exam “consists of innovative, short-answer questions and items to measure concepts and skills. Students demonstrate comprehension of literary and informational texts and give definitions of words based on their reading of texts, rather than on memorization. They also show understanding of mathematical concepts, procedures and short applications.”

These two components will be averaged together to get an overall score for student success throughout the year. Meaning, the two-part required assessments through PARCC do more to ensure student scores are a more accurate reflection of student performance instead of a simple snapshot like so many other standardized tests.

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