Examining the PARCC Initial Set of Test Items and Tasks

I’ve been keeping an eye on PARCC (as you should, if you are a Common Core state moving into a PARCC assessment). The group recently released what it is calling “Initial Set of Test Items and Task Prototypes). It’s important to note that the information flowing now from PARCC are not necessarily test items of record, but merely examples to demonstrate what PARCC is shaping up to look like for our students (and for us, since let’s face it, we need to know how our students are going to be assessed).

View the Test Items/Prototypes page at PARCC

I started in the sixth grade area, of course (since that is what I teach). My initial observations are that the resources are handy. I appreciate at least how PARCC. For example, if you look at the link for the Grade 6 Narrative Task, you can see two questions from a piece of reading from a real novel (in this case, Julie of the Wolves), and if you click on the link for more specific information, the PDF shows how the answer would be scored, the rationale for the score, and how it connects to the Common Core frameworks. That at least takes some mystery out of the development of the assessment. (for now, anyway. Who knows what changes are still in store?)

Another link took me to a “constructed response” to the reading, and this turns out to be a task in which students are asked to write a short story that extends their thinking around the text they have read. Their fictional story should use a character from the reading but also demonstrate understanding of the original author and use evidence from that story to inform their own story. I like that idea, and it at least shows PARCC has some focus on narrative, fiction writing.

I’d also suggest you check out the expanded (draft) PARCC rubric around narrative and analytic writing, as it is a helpful guide. I noticed many alignments already for our own school writing rubric.

And finally, PARCC has released an updated Model Content Frameworks. If you are a PARCC state, you should check that out.

Overall, I appreciate the information. The more I can get, the better I feel. I’m still worried, of course, and the lack of real information about or PARCC so far has increased my concerns (given that the timetable for implementation in our state is as early as next year for PARCC). I still need more time to read, absorb, and think about what PARCC has put on the table, and I welcome your thoughts, too. Whether we buy into Common Core and PARCC (or Smarter Balance, if that is you), the shifts are here and in front of us. Information is what need. This may be a trickle, but at least it’s a start.

Peace (understanding PARCC),


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