SBAC and PARCC Tests: What to Expect
The SBAC and PARCC are the tests your child is being introduced to this spring. Millions of students across the country will take these challenging tests, designed to assess the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These aren’t your grandmother’s standardized tests. Whereas the previous standards included basic knowledge and comprehension, the CCSS include problem-solving skills, reasoning, synthesizing, and collaboration—and so do the new tests. Everyone accustomed to multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper questions is in for a surprise.
The states that adopted the CCSS belong to one of two organizations, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). In 2010, these two organizations received federal funding to develop assessments for the 2014-2015 school year that are based on the CCSS. Because there are currently CCSS for the areas of English Language Arts (ELA) and Math, these are the only two areas that will be assessed. The organizations tout the new tests as giving a more accurate picture of a student’s true learning and of a student’s readiness for college and career. Additionally, because the tests are given across multiple states, there is the opportunity to gauge students’ performance from a national perspective.
A strong departure from fill-in-the-bubble tests, these new assessments are taken on a computer. Students will need to be familiar with basic computer skills such as drag and drop, using drop-down menus, clicking, scrolling, highlighting, and of course, typing. The tests include the following types of questions:
• Selected Response (SR) – students select one or more responses from a given set of options; similar to multiple choice questions, but there may be more than one right answer
• Constructed Response (CR) – students write brief, open responses to a given question to explain how they solved a math problem or what evidence a text provided for an answer they gave
• Extended Response (ER) – students write an extended response to explain their reasoning
• Performance Task (PT) – contains multiple parts including conducting research through various forms such as reading or video clips, then completing a task such as writing an essay; includes a teacher-directed activity in the classroom as well as a computer-based task
• Technology Enhanced (TE) and Technology Enabled (TE) – students use multi-media and interactive elements such as drawing and editing tools
Students taking the SBAC (in twenty states including California and North Carolina) will be asked to complete both a standards test and performance test during spring. Students taking the PARCC (including those in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland) will take a performance-based component in early spring and an end-of-year component just before summer.
This year’s scores will not count against students, so the tests might be thought of as a practice run for them and as a resource for teachers and educators. In fact, both organizations’ websites include practice tests that you can look over with your child at home. As with anything new, there will be growing pains. All we can do is hope for the best—and be prepared.
Please visit smarterbalanced.org and parcc.pearson.com for more information.