(This is the first of two articles about changes in standardized tests/ student assessments for elementary through high school students, including the PARCC and SAT tests. Part two, “The New SAT Will Premiere in Spring, 2016,” will follow in April, so be sure to check back.)

What is the PARCC Test?

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test will replace the NJ ASK assessment in the 2014 to 2015 school year. The PARCC is a standardized, computer-based test administered via computers each spring to students from 3rd to 11th grade to assess their skills and knowledge in mathematics and English language arts/ literacy. The knowledge and skills assessed on the PARCC test are aligned with the newly implemented Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The new CCSS clearly identify learning goals in mathematics and English language arts/ literacy for students, educators, and parents so everyone is on the same page. To date, 44 states, including New Jersey, have adopted the CCSS to establish what students should know and be able to do academically at each grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade in order to be prepared for college and/ or careers upon high school graduation. School districts in participating states will then build their curricula around these standards. The CCSS ensure all students will learn the identified set of standards at each grade level, which provides uniformity in learning from state to state and district to district.

How Is the PARCC Test Different from the NJ ASK Test?

The PARCC test will be administered to assess student learning according to the CCSS and what is actually learned in the classroom. Before the CCSS and PARCC, standardized assessments were not necessarily testing students on what they had specifically learned in school lessons; there was not a clearly defined link between the curriculum/ classroom lessons and standardized tests such as the NJ ASK. Additionally, the PARCC test is computerized, whereas the NJ ASK did not incorporate technology.

The new CCSS implement a rigorous continuum of learning and identify what skills and knowledge students from kindergarten through 12th grade need to learn in order to be adequately prepared for college and careers.  In this way, as students progress to the next grade, their learning will be based on the prior knowledge and skills from earlier grades. The standards are planned so that students’ learning builds from year to year;  all knowledge and skills necessary for college and career readiness are learned by high school graduation. Remedial and supplemental learning strategies will be implemented as needed for individual students to help them master the CCSS-defined learning milestones and attain these PARCC-assessed goals to keep learning on track for future success.

Which Students Will Take the PARCC?

Currently, the PARCC test will be administered to 3rd through 11th graders in participating states, including New Jersey. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) may require PARCC-testing modifications, such as adjusted time limits and different means for taking the test.

What to Expect in the PARCC Test English Language Arts/ Literacy Sections

The PARCC test’s English language arts/ literacy sections will present students with more rigorous and complex reading passages indicative of the new CCSS literacy standards for each grade level. The students will refer to the text given to answer series of multiple choice questions, as well as to compose extended written responses.

The PARCC test will feature fewer questions than the NJ ASK, but the questions will be higher quality, multi-level, and rooted in the text provided. To answer questions on the PARCC test, students will use higher-order reasoning and thinking skills, such as application, critical analysis, creation, evaluation, and extension rather than simple fact recollection, interpretation, and summarization.

Written responses will be solidly constructed using text-based evidence to prove students’ answers. Reading passages will represent a variety of non-fiction topics from multiple subject areas, such as science, history, and literature. Students will often receive several different reading passages centered around a central theme or topic. With the PARCC, students will no longer be asked to compose narrative-type responses or persuasive responses with arguments strictly constructed from memory.
Contact All About WritingAll About Writing offers writing tutoring services for students of all ages that incorporate the strong writing skills demanded by the new CCSS and PARCC test, as well as the SATs. Students learn to be critical thinkers and compose responses that prove and substantiate their viewpoints using text and intelligent support.

Learn more about All About Writing and owner Christa Riddle at  www.allaboutwritingconsulting.com. Remember, with All About Writing, writing help is just a call or click away! Call us today to schedule your free consultation and get your project underway. We are here to assist with any phase of the project.

-by Christa Riddle