The 2014-15 academic school year is a big one for Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Schools in many states have been working on adopting the college and career-ready standards in classrooms for four years and it is now time to measure student progress against these standards. To put the standards “to the test,” literally, states are required to administer Common Core-aligned assessments.
No need to panic! New tests have been built that specifically align to the Common Core and guide students through the process of demonstrating the skills assessed by the CCSS. These tests were developed by Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). The consortia designed the tests to assess critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity skills which experts warn will be difficult for educators to simply teach to when the questions come out.
Key features of these assessments.
- The tests will be administered by computer or tablet.
- A variety of writing skills will be assessed at all grade levels with an emphasis on citing evidence and supporting conclusions.
- Students will be required to apply mathematical knowledge to real-world situations.
- The tests will not primarily rely on multiple choice questions but will include technology-enhanced items such as sequence, hot text, and constructed response.
- The ability to analyze information from multiple sources such as video clips, spreadsheets, and websites will be assessed.
Prepare students for the assessments.
So, how can educators help students prepare for the new features and increased rigor of Common Core aligned assessments? First, get familiar with what these tests look like by viewing the prototypes and demos found at smarterbalanced.org and parcconline.org. Then, give students ample opportunities to use computers to improve keyboarding skills and to practice using various technology-enhanced item types. Increase the amount of writing that students are assigned across all subjects, being sure to emphasize the use of evidence to support an argument. Also, bring the real-world into the classroom by having students use math skills to solve everyday problems. Furthermore, schools can increase CCSS professional development opportunities to strengthen understanding of best teaching practices.
Though we don’t yet know the full content of the new Common Core assessments or what the results will be, we can prepare as much as possible and then use this first round to gauge where we are currently, make adjustments, and move forward in ensuring that our students are college and career ready. So, bring it on!