PARCCIf you’re in one of the states that make up the The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), you know that the time for assessment is almost here. In my district, administrators, curriculum leaders, and coaches collaborated to create a PARCC Action Plan. We identified four recommendations that will help our fabulous staff prepare students for the transition to this online assessment. In the spirit of collaboration, I’d like to share it with a greater education community.

Recommendation #1: Familiarize yourself with the skills students will need to be successful when using an online assessment. These skills can be broken down into four categories:

The Office of Special Education Programs, US Department of Education, awarded the University of Kentucky, in collaboration with CAST, a Directed Research Project grant entitled Universal Design of Assessment: Applications of Technology. One of the research activities of this project was to identify the prerequisite skills for students to successfully access and use a computer-based assessment. These skills are also included in the Technology Skills for Online Assessments resource, published by the MA DESE in July 14. The list below is adapted, with extended descriptions from those resources.

Skills Breakdown of Skills
Keyboarding skills
  • Identify, locate, and use letter, number, and punctuation keys to enter characters
  • Use enter/return key
  • Use space bar
  • Use delete key
  • Use backspace key
  • Use shift key
  • Use tab key
  • Use number pad
  • Use keyboard to type letters and numerals
  • Enter characters with reasonable accuracy (i.e., 85%)
  • Enter characters with reasonable speed
Mouse or track pad skills
  • Use single-click function of the mouse
  • Use double-click function of the mouse
  • Use click and drag function of the mouse. This is important for drag and drop questions.
  • Use a mouse to highlight text on a screen
Online assessment skills (general)
  • Scroll to view complete text/question
  • Scroll to navigate to a response section
  • Scroll within each box of a split screen
  • Toggle between tabs in a split screen
  • Enter text by typing directly into expandable text response box
  • Using an onscreen video player
PARCC specific skills
  • Drop-down menu: PARCC will include questions that contain drop down menus used with cloze-type questions.
  • Use hot spot zones: Unlike a traditional multiple-choice item where only one answer option can be selected, hot spot items may require the student to select one or more hot spot zones (answer options) in order to correctly answer the item
  • Answer Eliminator to “cross out” answers on multiple-choice answers that they believe are incorrect – also called Answer masking
  • Mark question to be reviewed later
  • Magnifying/zoom features
  • Pop-up glossary
  • Ruler: Some questions will have a ruler available for student use (1 inch increments in grade 3). Students will need to be able to click and drag to rotate the ruler as needed
  • Protractor: Starts in grade 4

Recommendation #2: Familiarize yourself with the curriculum shifts to identify all the *new* skills that students are introduced to each year. The PARCC compiled these shifts into their Model Content Frameworks, which you can access here: ELA and Math.

Recommendation #3: Use the Online PARCC Resources

TestNav 8 Tutorial: Using the tutorial you can explore the types of tools available as a class, then allow students to use the tools with a partner on the device they will be using for the test. The tutorial gets the “playing with the tools” out of their system before using the test. Warning to teachers would be that all tools are available in the tutorial (i.e. two rulers, calculator, equation editor, etc.) and these tools may not be available for students at a certain grade level.

Sample items and rubrics:

  • Start using the rubrics when you have the kids do practice text-based writing assignments.
  • Students can work on sample items and review together to discuss how to use the tools and explore together.
  • Have students begin practicing the sample tests on Firefox or Safari in order to practice using the highlighter tool. The sample items will not work correctly in the Chrome browser.

Practice tests:

  • When using the practice tests, it is valuable to focus on how to scroll when using the split screen function.
  • It may be valuable to allow students to experiment with the universal accessibility features so they don’t get distracted by them when taking the actual test. You can view the accessibility features in the bar will appear at the top of the testing screen.
  • The arrows take students forward or backward to answer previous questions or the next question. The review tool allows students to see which questions they answered already and which they left blank. The flag is for questions students want to return to. The arrow is to highlight text. The x is to eliminate answers (but be careful, sometimes more than one answer is correct). If you click on the silhouette figure all the way to the right, you can access the EZ reader strip and the magnifying tool.
  • Another aspect of the online practice test is the expandable text box. Please note to students that this box will continue to get longer as they type, so they should not stop their response when they get to the bottom of the box.

Recommendation #4: If you teach ELA or math, definitely read the blueprints

PARCC created “blueprints” which tell us exactly what each module with look like and how it will be organized, and which standard it will align to. Here is one example where I summarized the “blueprint” for the third grade literary analysis task. You can access all blueprints here:

Task Type Grade 3 Literary Analysis
Number and Type of Texts 1 Extended Literature Text1 Additional Literature Text
Prose constructed response Will align to standard 7, “Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).”
Number and Type of Additional Items
  • 2 vocabulary context items (Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language)
  • 4 EBSR (evidence based standard response) items to measure standard 2 (determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text)
Organization of Module
  • Students read extended literature text
  • Students respond to 1 vocabulary item exclusive to the extended literature text
  • Students respond to 1-2 EBSR items exclusive to the extended literature text
  • Students read 1 additional literature text
  • Students respond to 1 vocabulary item exclusive to text 2
  • Students respond to 1-3 EBSR items tied to BOTH texts
  • Students respond to 1 PCR



Your PARCC Action Plan

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