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PARCC exams continue to develop after field tests

FRIDAY, MAY 23, 2014 10:21 AM

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a consortium of states working together to build standardized assessments for K-12 schools. The exams are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and are meant to help educators track students' educational progress. Currently, 17 states use the PARCC exam, and Mississippi is among their ranks. The state recently approved an $8.4 million budget to spend on the standardized testing program.

Educational approval
According to the Associated Press, Mississippi's Board of Education voted on May 16 and approved the expenditure. The money will go toward the development of PARCC tests, which are scheduled for implementation in spring 2015. Board members noted that the PARCC exams will be significantly more challenging than current standardized tests, as they are meant to assess proficiency in Common Core-aligned curriculum. As a result, the Board expects test scores to be low when the exam first comes out, as students will have to get used to the new assessment. 

Spending money on students
The PARCC exam is computer-based, meaning that students take it digitally rather than with paper and pencil (though the test can be administered on paper). The assessment evaluates students on their math and English/language arts knowledge. James Mason, Mississippi's state testing director, said the $8.4 million is a smaller sum than most expected it to be. The state will pay $12.50 per Algebra 1 or English 2 exam on the computer, and $18 for each student taking the test on paper. 

Common Core and PARCC goals
The Common Core State Standards are designed to help schools prepare their students for college and their future careers. The Standards include a set of goals for students to achieve at the end of each grade, but individual states build their own curricula. The PARCC exam is meant to test student progress to ensure they're on track for graduation. The Common Core is regarded as being more rigorous than other educational standards, and the PARCC exam reflects the challenging content. 

Students have taken preliminary PARCC exams as a way for the consortium to test-run the assessments. Educators have given mixed reviews on the PARCC exams, as some teachers report positive feedback while others find flaws. According to the Lake Zurich Courier, district officials in Lake Zurich, Illinois, feel the exams went well.

"Students are deeply engaged in the problem types," Terry Mootz, District 95's director of data and assessment, told the source. "Teachers felt the assessment is worthy of preparation, rather than a distraction from quality learning and instruction."

Until the exams roll out in full, PARCC states are revising the exam based on such feedback.