Eastern to pilot PARCC assessment
Standardized testing in New Jersey is about to get an overhaul, as students will go from pencils and Scantron sheets to desktops and keyboards. With changes in standardized testing coming soon to Eastern Regional High School, director of curriculum and instruction Dr. Patricia Denholm informed the board of education at the Nov. 13 meeting that Eastern has planned to stay ahead of the curve. It is volunteering to serve as a pilot school for the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment, which is slated to be implemented into all New Jersey schools for the 2014–2015 school year.
“We’re looking forward to being the pilot,” Denholm said. “The more we can learn, the better off we’ll be.”
Although the classes have yet to be chosen, Denholm said that having students take the computer-based assessments early will help the school gauge how the students score and whether the technology in Eastern would support the new assessment, essentially staving off any growing pains Eastern may feel when the testing is fully implemented next year.
New Jersey is one of 20 states that will implement PARCC assessments into the school system for grades three through 11 in the coming year. The PARCC assessment will replace all end-of-the-year state tests for those grades, including the High School Proficiency Assessment for the 11th graders.
During her presentation to the board, Denholm highlighted some of the benefits of the computer-based assessment. She explained that it would produce better data faster than traditional paper tests.
“They created this test that can be used better and more diagnostically,” Denholm said.
In addition, Denholm said the new PARCC assessments will address critical thinking, measuring not just the answer, but also the reasoning that led the student to arrive at a particular answer.
“It’s a different type of testing, and we have high hopes for it,” Denholm said.
The PARCC assessments align with Common Core State Standards, meaning all 20 participating states will have the same assessment, making student achievement data comparable from state to state.
To evaluate the high school’s technical compatibility, Eastern participated in technology online assessment along with every other school within the state. Denholm explained that all online assessments were then collected by the state Department of Education and passed to the federal government.
Following the meeting, Denholm said that two math classes at Eastern will participate in the pilot program, but explained that they are still awaiting further instruction from the state before selecting the two participating classrooms.
Unlike assessments such as the HSPA, which has approximately a three-day window, schools will have a 20-day window to complete PARCC assessments. Denholm explained that since the assessments are computer-based, the technology would not support every student testing at the same time. However, she added that the random distribution of questions throughout the assessment would help curtail students potentially sharing answers.
Denholm added that PARCC is expected to set cut scores for the assessment, by the summer of 2015.
According to its website, PARCC aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of English and math for kindergarten to 12th grade, to gauge student preparedness for college or a career.
For more information, visit www.parcconline.org.