Putting Education Reform To The Test

A Stroll Through The PARCC: More On Florida’s Next Standardized Test

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Students will likely be able to take Florida's next standardized test on a tablet computer.

Florida is one of about two dozen states developing a new standardized test as part of a switch to tougher new education standards.

The test, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC, is a computerized exam which will replace much of the current Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, as well as the standardized tests of other states.

Vince Verges with the Florida Department of Education presented a rundown of what’s different about the test on the final day of the FETC education technology conference in Orlando.

The highlights:

1) The test is computerized, and can be taken on a tablet computer as small as 9.5 inches. Verges believed students will be allowed to use a separate keyboard with tablets. Some of the answers will require students to type in their reasoning, including students as young as 3rd grade.

The test will feature traditional multiple choice questions. But designers are also adding new question types, such as dragging and dropping fractions to the correct place on a number line or choosing “greater than,” “less than” or “equal to” from a drop-down menu.

Designers are still determining what accommodations schools must make for students learning English or those with disabilities. Verges said it is likely, in rare cases, that students will be able to use a text-to-speech feature to read the test to them.

2) There will be two rounds of testing each year, and the scores will be combined into a final score. The first round will be given around the time the FCAT writing exam is administered, currently the end of February.

The test will be two days of English Language Arts and one day of math. The first round of testing will require students to write out answers or perform tasks to complete the exam. Human reviewers will issue scores.

The second round of testing will be one day each of English Language Arts and Math, coming at the end of the school year. Those exams will be objective right-or-wrong answers which can be graded by computer.

3) More grades will take the test. PARCC adds exams in 3rd and 11th grades.

4) The testing will take longer. Verges said the details are still being worked out, but that test days will be longer than with the FCAT.

“It’s not going to be 8 hours,” Verges said. “It’s going to be longer than current testing, but we don’t see it being twice as long or three times as long.”

Schools also have the option of two additional exams, one at the beginning of the year and another midway through the year. Verges said cost will likely determine how many school districts use the optional exams.

5) Some of Florida’s current tests will remain. PARCC replaces FCAT reading, writing and math in grades 3 through 10, as well as end of course exams for Algebra I and Geometry. The state will add a PARCC exam for Algebra II.

The FCAT 2.0 science exam in 5th and 8th grades will remain, as will end of course exams for Biology, U.S. History and Civics.


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