Three Takeaways from PARCC’s Field Testing

by Helen Beyne

The first session of PARCC online assessment field testing ended last week. Over 400,000 tests were taken during this session with more tests to follow later this month. So, what can we learn from the PARCC rollout before the official test in 2015?

Remember—This is Just a Sample

PAARC, online, assessment, practice test

image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Most of the students who participated in the first round of field testing took only one component (performance-based or end-of-year) in one subject area (ELA/Literacy or Math). When students take the test in 2015, they will take both components in both subjects. This difference could mean next year’s test will pose a greater challenge to students than the field test, but that remains to be seen.

Also keep in mind that PARCC plans to adjust the test based on field testing results. Assessment items are being looked at to make sure they do a good job of measuring the CCSS they are designed to measure. Individual test questions that were off-base in field testing could be removed or revised. No matter what, PARCC’s Common Core focus means that students can prepare for the test by practicing Common Core skills such as critical thinking and citing text evidence.

Consider the Learning Curve

Implementing any new process or technology involves a learning curve. Whether you’re familiarizing yourself with new hardware or upgrading your operating system, there will always be new commands and features to learn. These changes may be frustrating at times, but they are not impossible to handle.

The same principle holds true for PARCC. The computer-based approach to assessment is probably pretty new to you and your school. As a result, there may be tech problems and kinks to work out. During field testing, most schools reported a rocky first day, but smoother days afterward.

Before the official test, make sure your school’s computers and network meet the required specifications. On test day, consider having PARCC’s tech information and FAQs ready in case of a problem. Tech support is also available through the PearsonAccess call center. (See this PDF for the phone number.)

Talk to Your Students

It may be difficult to set aside the conversation that adults are currently having about PARCC, but if you do, you will see that students’ reactions to PARCC tend to be positive. Many students found computer-based testing more engaging than paper-and-pencil testing. This feedback could be because PARCC’s browser-based format reflects how students already use computers. Many students use computers to complete homework or consume media, and PARCC taps into similar skills.

Ask students about their PARCC experiences. If your students did not participate in PARCC’s field testing, have them try one of the practice tests available on the PARCC website. Whether individually or as a group, have students complete a section and share their reactions. Ask them about the technology and the content. Their answers are sure to be a valuable resource for your PARCC preparation.

Helen Beyne is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. She has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.

2 thoughts on “Three Takeaways from PARCC’s Field Testing

    1. Helen Beyne Post author

      Thanks Sue! There are some interesting perspectives. We’ll have to spend some time exploring that site.


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