Preface: We should not be waiting for the tests to start adjusting our instruction and curricula to meet the demands of the new common core standards.
That being said, I would be naive to pretend most people aren’t waiting for the tests. We’ve become a test-driven institution. We teach according to what we expect to see on the tests; we teach according to how we anticipate students will be tested; we grade according to how the tests will be graded. We’re all curious about the PARCC assessments, but the information about them is incredibly limited, kept under lock and key by seemingly few people. Everyone is dying to know: what will the new tests look like? What will be tested? How will they address the challenging standards (ex. Speaking & Listening)? When will we see sample test items?
You may already know some 8th graders in Ohio recently piloted the new, online, innovative social studies assessments, which were received pretty well by students. A teacher in a panel session I attended Friday said her students were more engaged and motivated by the new format. But this pilot isn’t enough to squelch the fervor for PARCC test items.
In the Twitterverse today I ran across this gem: a blog by the Institute for Learning through the University of Pittsburg titled, “What does the PARCC assessment blueprint signal for teaching and learning?” which included a breakdown of the research simulation task and the literary analysis task for grades 3-11. For fear of breaking copyright laws, I won’t post the image here, but because it is from a presentation by Bonnie Hain, Senior Adviser for ELA at Achieve, I want you to click the link and look at it!
Points/My Thoughts on the Image:
- Notice how well the expectations align with the standards. In the grade 3-5 band, students will be asked to recount the key details and main idea in 3rd grade (“RI.3.2. Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea”), which switches to summarizing in grades 4/5 (“RI.4.2. Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text”). The same is true of the upper grades, who will be asked to write an objective summary (“RI.9-10.2. Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text”).
- In the second bulleted point under research simulation task, notice students will be asked to synthesize information from 3 shorter texts. This is the “read like a detective; write like an investigative reporter”) idea.
- In the literary analysis task, students will read two pieces from grades 3-11.
- Interestingly, students will write a narrative. I find this interesting given the pretty consistent controversy surrounding David Coleman and his seeming disdain for stories.
- Finally, a second analytic essay in which students will analyze the two pieces of literature.
As teachers begin summer planning (hopefully with a study of the standards and the 6 shifts in ELA toward the top of their list of to-do’s), making small adjustments to include more analytic writing in next year’s plans should be a focus.