What We Know About the PARCC and Smarter Balanced Tests

• Testing will take 8 to 10 hours. Additional time may be available for students who need it, according to PARCC.

• SBAC will offer adaptive-form tests.  As a student works on one question, the computer is generating two more. Which question the student gets next depends on his answer to the first one. Because the test will be customized to each student’s ability, teachers will be able to tell if a student is working ahead (or behind) grade level, and in which areas.

• PARCC will offer fixed-form tests. Students will be measured against grade-level expectations. Test results will simply indicate whether or not a child is at grade level.

• Reading passages will be more complex. Because the Common Core emphasizes authentic, high-quality fiction and nonfiction texts, educators expect the reading passages on the new tests to be up to one grade level ahead of what students are used to seeing on state tests.

Lessons from Kentucky

As predicted, the number of students deemed “proficient” dropped significantly when Kentucky recently assessed students’ progress with new, Common Core–aligned assessments. But that doesn’t mean that state officials are down on the Core.

“We expected a decrease, because the standards represent a 13-year progression, and none of our assessed students had experienced more than one-thirteenth of the progression,” says Karen Kidwell, director of the Kentucky DOE’s Division of Program Standards. “We view this as an opportunity to understand where we currently are, so we can do what is right to ensure that our students are college- and career-ready when they leave our public schools.”

Kidwell says that other educators should not underestimate Common Core’s focus on “deep understanding, complexity, and application,” and advises ample professional learning opportunities to develop a solid understanding of the Common Core and best teaching practices.

For key tips on preparing for new assessments click here: Common Core: Assessments