The PARCC folks and Common Core cheerleaders like to talk about the next generation of standardized testing. Are these new tests worth the $29.50 per student cost? In my state of New York that would triple the cost of the current 3-8 testing program. Of course we will also need to seriously upgrade technology in an era of massive school funding concerns. I wrote previously about the impact on an individual school. Recently PARCC released its computer-based sample tests. Shaun Johnson made a few insights into some of the issues surrounding the new online testing last week. As a long time Seventh Grade teacher, I decided to take a look at the middle school samples:
(click on images to enlarge)
The first part of the middle school sample is a biography of Amelia Earhart. Not impressed so far, a canned reading with the same paragraph numbering and multiple choice follow up questions as the “old school” assessments. Nothing revolutionary here.
The next page is interesting, students get to drag and drop statements into a timeline. A little computer technology here, very little.
The next few pages continue with multiple choice questions related to the main readings, again how is this different that previous state assessments? Another drop box exercise and then this:
A video on a standardized test? Ok, this is a new idea, some students might find these questions using media easier to decipher than the readings. Oh no, an error? Yes this will happen. My school adds new computers in a hodge-podge fashion every few years. When we do a windows update over the summer disaster awaits as the different computer types react in various ways. With a variety of desktop computers, laptops and tablets, compatibility will be a serious issue and even the best preparation will not prevent problems on testing day.
Going into the world of online assessments, the written essay is one of my major concerns. Student keyboard skills vary widely. Would the essay portion of the test increase the assessment time needed? I have heard that some schools are giving primary aged students keyboard skill classes. Is word processing the latest form of test prep?
I find the entry for typing the essay troubling. As a frequent blogger, I like to be able to see the majority of my text, the small entry box for the written portion does not allow for easy review or editing. I can see student frustration at a high level with this typing format.
The sample continues with another reading and similar multiple choice and essay format. Is the PARCC assessment really a next-generation test program for the future? Does PARCC really change the way we assess students?
Connect with Chris Cerrone on twitter: @Stoptesting15