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This week, Indiana’s governor announced that the state plans to withdraw from a group of states developing new tests to go along with the Common Core, the new math and English standards that most Ohio schools will be teaching to this fall.
Pennsylvania has told the test development group, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in College and Career or PARCC, that it intends to withdraw soon.
“As far as the Department of Education is concerned, at this point we are moving forward in the PARCC coalition,” Ohio Department of Education spokesperson John Charlton said.
Officials in some states that have backed away from PARCC have said they’re worried the new tests will cost more and take more time than their current tests. Ohio officials expect the cost will be virtually the same for most students. In Indiana, the decision to withdraw from PARCC came after the legislature called for the state to pause implementation of the Common Core.
Ohio is one of 14 states committed to trying out the new tests in the spring of 2014.
The field tests are “about understanding how students and teachers interact with the tests,” PARCC Governing Board Chair Mitchell Chester said in a conference call with reporters this week. They won’t actually “count” for student or school grades.
The new tests will go into effect for real in the 2014-15 school year.
And these new tests will be different from Ohio’s existing state tests.
They’re intended to be given entirely online. Ohio’s current state tests are a paper-and-pencil affair.
Many Ohio schools aren’t ready to make that shift. About half of the districts responding to a Department of Education survey said that they had the computers or other devices necessary to give the new tests. That survey only included about half of all districts statewide.
A paper and pencil version will be available for schools that aren’t ready to move to online testing.
The new tests will take more time overall than Ohio’s current testing regime.
And, as our colleagues at StateImpact Florida explain, there are other key differences between the new tests and the old ones:
- The [new] test is more interactive. Questions are more like puzzles, often asking students
to solve a series of interrelated problems or perform a task. Often, students will need to type in answers.
- Fewer multiple choice questions. Many of the questions are open-ended and students will be less likely to guess the correct answer.
- Same task, multiple ways. The new exam often asks students to perform similar tasks multiple ways to make sure they understand the concept. For instance, elementary students might be asked to convert 3/4ths to another, equivalent fraction and then place both on a number line.
PARCC estimates the new tests will cost about $29.95 per student for the online version that most students are expected to use. Ohio currently spends about $30 per student for math and English tests, Ohio Department of Education spokesperson John Charlton said.
The paper and pencil version of the PARCC tests are likely to be slightly more expensive than the online version, but the state will cover the costs of both types of tests, Charlton said.
Hundreds of educators have been involved in developing the test questions, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said during a conference call with reporters this week.
“The PARCC assessment is going to be what I think could be called tests worth taking,” she said.