PARCC — the biggest Common Core testing consortium — has put sample test questions online.
To start with, PARCC must be taken on a computer. It’s “a massive pain in the patoot,” writes Greene.
The reading selection is in its own little window and I have to scroll the reading within that window. The two questions run further down the page, so when I’m looking at the second question, the window with the selection in it is halfway off the screen, so to look back to the reading I have to scroll up in the main window and then scroll up and down in the selection window and then take a minute to punch myself in the brain in frustration.
Teachers will have to prep students to handle the format.
Questions focus very heavily on finding things in the text that support answers. The first question asks which three out of seven terms in the text on DNA testing in agriculture “help clarify” the meaning of “DNA fingerprint.”
If I already understand the term, none of them help (what helped you learn how to write your name today?), and if I don’t understand the term, apparently there is only one path to understanding. If I decide that I have to factor in the context in which the phrase is used, I’m back to scrolling in the little window . . . I count at least four possible answers here, but only three are allowed. Three of them are the only answers to use “genetics” in the answer.
I tried the practice reading test for grades 3-5. I picked the meaning of “master” with no trouble. Which sentence — out of four choices — helped me do so? None of them.
When the high school test moves on to literature, it demands that poetry has one meaning only, complains Greene.
Another section features Abigail Adams’ letter to John Adams calling for women’s rights. Questions focus on “her use of ‘tyrant’ based entirely on context,” Greene writes. “Because no conversation between Abigail and John Adams mentioning tyranny in 1776 could possibly be informed by any historical or personal context.”
In short, he concludes PARCC is “unnecessarily complicated, heavily favoring students who have prior background knowledge, and absolutely demanding that test prep be done with students.”
PARCC won’t produce reliable results, writes Michael Mazenko, a Colorado teacher. He tried the seventh-grade reading test, which contains passages from The Count of Monte Cristo. That’s too hard for seventh graders, Mazenko writes.
And, like Greene, he thinks the computerized format strongly favors the most computer-savvy students.