Education Week - June 3, 2015 - (Page 6)

PARCC Shortens Testing Time, Shifts to Later in the School Year By Catherine Gewertz In the face of rising opposition to testing, the parcc consortium has decided to carve 90 minutes off its 10- to 11-hour-long assessment and shift the start of testing to later in the school year. The redesign of the test was approved May 20 in a unanimous phone-conference vote by the board of governors of parcc, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Eleven states and the District of Columbia belong to the consortium, which created tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The revised design will take effect with the 2015-16 parcc tests in English/language arts and mathematics, which are given to students in grades 3-11. In addition to shortening the test, the new design folds parcc's two testing windows into one 30-day window and requires that states wait until three-quarters of the way into the school year before starting the testing. Currently, parcc states have a 12week window, between Feb. 16 and May 8, to give the longer, more complex performance tasks. They have an eight-week window, April 13 to June 5, for the end-of-year component, which contains shorter-answer items. Within those windows, states choose 20-day periods in which to administer the tests. Next year, states will have one 30day period to give the tests. Testing can't begin until 75 percent of instruction has been completed-day 133 in a 180-day instructional year-and it must end by the time 90 percent of instruction has been completed. This year, teachers in states that began early-such as Ohio, which opened its testing season Feb. 16- complained that they hadn't had enough time to teach their material. (See Education Week, Feb. 23, 2015.) The redesigned test would also reduce the number of sessions that students must sit for, but it would lengthen them a bit as well. Students now take the parcc test in eight or nine "units," or sessions, depending on grade level, and those sessions vary from 60 to 90 minutes each. Next year, students will take six or seven units, depending on the grade, and sit for sessions of 75 to 110 minutes each. Materials presented to the parcc governing board show that even as students sit for longer test sessions, they will spend 60 minutes less on math and 30 minutes less on English/ language arts, because there will be fewer short-answer items. The number of performance tasks will remain the same, but fewer questions-and accordingly, points-will be given in the short-answer sections of the math and literacy exams. Exceptions for a Few A small subset of students will not benefit from a reduction in parcc testing time next year. That's because they'll be randomly chosen by the consortium to field-test English/ language arts questions for the following year. That will add 75 to 110 minutes to the test. Like any test-maker, parcc must continue to field-test questions for future test forms. Typically, such questions are sprinkled into each year's operational test. But given the increasing objections of parents and policymakers to long tests, parcc decided to confine that added time to a representative sample of 15 percent to 25 percent of its students, instead of lengthening the test for all of them. The changes in parcc's test design aren't the first since it won $185 million in federal funding in 2010 to design tests tied to the common core. In a major revision in 2011, the consortium dropped its "through course" design, which would have parceled the test out into four pieces across the school year. Last year, it dropped some English/language arts questions from the test in a bid to manage its length. It also made its test of speaking-andlistening skills optional. The other consortium that built common-core tests with federal funding, Smarter Balanced, also had to respond to criticism about its test's length. It shortened the test by several hours by cutting back on performance tasks. Now it takes students seven to 8½ hours, depending on grade level. Even still, parcc has been grappling with pushback from state and district leaders, teachers, parents, and students because the tests take up so much time. Parcc's assessment chief, Jeffrey Nellhaus, appeared before the Ohio legislature in April as lawmakers considered legislation to cut back on testing. He reassured the House education committee there that parcc had heard its concerns and was working on shortening the test. The Ohio House still passed a bill last month eliminating funding for parcc. The Colorado legislature, also concerned about testing time, passed a measure last month that exempts 11th graders from the parcc exams. Chicago announced in January it would boycott the parcc test in 90 percent of its schools, citing concern about the test and schools' technological readiness. But it later agreed to give the test in all schools when federal and state officials warned that the district could be punished for failing to test all students as required under the No Child Left Behind Act. When the new test length was announced, Mr. Nellhaus said that the parcc states were trying to "respond to the field." "Parents are concerned about the amount of testing time. Schools were primarily concerned about the burden SOURCE: PARCC PARCC REVISIONS The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers has announced a major change in the design of its test linked to the common-core standards. Here are highlights of the redesign: OVERALL TESTING TIME: REDUCED BY 90 MINUTES 2015-16 8¼ hours to 9 hours, 40 minutes 2015-16 One 30-day window that would begin at 75 percent of instruction and end at 90 percent of instruction, and would blend performance tasks and end-of-year items 2014-15 9¾ hours to 11 hours TESTING WINDOW: ONE INSTEAD OF TWO 2014-15 Two 20-day windows: one for performance tasks, after 75 percent of instruction, and another for end-of-year items, after 90 percent of instruction TESTING SESSIONS: FEWER, BUT LONGER 2014-15 8 or 9 sessions of 60 minutes to 90 minutes each, depending on grade level 2015-16 6 or 7 sessions of 75 minutes to 110 minutes each, depending on grade level of having two testing windows, and having to keep the testing windows open over such a long period of time," he said in an interview. Others said the design changes will mollify only some critics. "It might make life easier for school administrators that have to arrange testing schedules, and for teachers who have to adjust their curriculums," said Scott F. Marion, the associate director of the Center for Assessment, a Dover, N.H.-based company that offers technical assistance to states on assessment. "But the folks who are opposed to testing in general," he said, "and who are against the common core because they see it as a federal overreach, the only change that will appease those folks is if parcc disappears." Questions Raised Testing experts identified some concerns about the new design. Barbara S. Plake, the retired director of the Buros Center for Testing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said that by moving the testing window later into the year, parcc might complicate the question of comparability between this year's tests and next year's. That's because some students in 2014-15 took the performance tasks as early as mid-February, but next year, test-takers will have the benefit of more instruction before they tackle those items, she said. Another area of concern for Ms. Plake, who serves on parcc's technical-advisory committee, is the design of the sample of students who will be chosen to field-test items. If the consortium doesn't take great care 6 | EDUCATION WEEK | June 3, 2015 | to obtain an appropriate sample of students of widely varying performance levels, it could compromise the integrity of field-testing those items, she said. She also expressed concern about the added burden of testing time on students chosen for field testing. "It might be considered unfair to some students," Ms. Plake said. By reducing the number of test items, the consortium runs some risk of increasing measurement error and decreasing the reliability of the test, said Robert L. Brennan, who also serves on the technical-advisory committee and is the director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Measurement and Assessment at the University of Iowa. Lori Michalic, who teaches English at Tallmadge High School in Ohio, welcomed the change in design. She had struggled to cover her content before her district began testing in mid-March. "It will be incredible if we can shorten the amount of testing time and not lose that instructional time," said Ms. Michalic, Ohio's 2015 teacher of the year. "That was the biggest complaint from our staff, that students were consistently being pulled out of class to take the tests." Coverage of the implementation of collegeand career-ready standards is supported in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage. The CURRICULUM MATTERS blog tracks news and trends on this issue. iStockphoto

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 3, 2015

Education Week - June 3, 2015
New S.C. Standards Ease Political Pushback
Summer-Job Demand Outstrips Opportunities
Districts Use Student Insights To Guide Policy, Practice
Charters Look Anew At Teacher Retention
With Common Core, Algebra Course Undergoes a Face-Lift
News in Brief
Report Roundup
PARCC Shortens Testing Time, Shifts to Later in the School Year
Ties Deepening Between Schools, After-School Providers
Parent Engagement on Rise As Priority for Schools, Districts
Charter Sector Challenged by Caliber of School Boards
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: The E-Rate Overhaul in 4 Easy Charts
Studies Probe How Students Can Apply Math More Widely
NAEP to Gather Data on Grit, Mindset
Blogs of the Week
Teacher-Retention Data For Charters Still Murky
Stakes High for Bureau of Indian Education’s Overhaul
California Seeks Waiver on Use of Federal Title I Tutoring Money
Blogs of the Week
FRANCESCA STERNFELD: Necessary Lessons, Schools’ Critical Role in Reducing Family Violence
BENJAMIN RILEY: Can Teacher-Educators Learn From Medical-School Reform?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: States Should Ditch ‘Cut Scores’ on New Tests
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
TERRY B. GRIER: Creating a College-Bound Culture in an Urban School District

Education Week - June 3, 2015