New Jersey Students Will Be Spending More Time Taking New Online Tests

John Mooney | September 26, 2014 | Education
Latest PARCC update indicates that tests could take as much as 10 hours spread over a half-dozen days

computer testing kids
Details continue to come in about the online testing that will be used in New Jersey schools this spring, with the latest updates indicating that there will clearly be more hours spent on the assessments than in the past.

The consortium running the new multistate testing — the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) — yesterday released its latest administration update for the exams. It shows that testing could take as much as 10 hours over the course of a half-dozen days in the spring.

Depending on the test and the grade, that could be an increase of up to four hours from current testing, albeit spread over more days. The times were reduced from last spring’s field-tests, with PARCC officials clearly cognizant of ongoing debates about testing.

The PARCC outline also laid out the actual estimated time required for most students to complete the testing, reducing the time somewhat from the full administration duration.

“The revised times were established so that students would have sufficient time to complete the assessments but also to minimize the amount of time spent on testing,” read the update.

“As educators know, this is important to ensure that all children have sufficient time to show what they know and can do,” it continued. “In English language arts/literacy, for example, the session times should enable students to do close reading of the passages, draft their written responses, and go back to edit their work.”

PARCC timelines have been a hot issue in New Jersey and elsewhere, as educators and parent groups complain about the amount of time spent on testing.

Acting state Education Commissioner David Hespe said yesterday that information will soon be sent to districts that details the new administration guidelines, as well as where and when training is available.

He stressed that while the time is extended, the detail and usefulness of data from the tests will be considerably increased in helping teachers and instruction.

In addition, the department said it is continuing to work with districts to ensure that they will have the technology necessary to administer the tests. The state’s latest survey last spring found 80 percent of testing locations technology-ready, officials said, and the latest preliminary survey is moving that number close to 90 percent.

Still, the administration of the new tests is nothing if not controversial, and even before the PARCC announcement, the Newark-based Education Law Center yesterday issued a press release airing concerns about new round of PARCC tests that will be given in the high schools.

For the first time, New Jersey students will be given specific end-of-course tests in language arts and math in high schools in three grades, a total of six tests. They will replace the current general assessment given only in 11th grade.

“Adding six, computer-based tests with multiple parts to the high school curriculum will have significant costs and impacts that are only beginning to come into view,” said Stan Karp, program director for the ELC.

Karp has especially raised concerns about using the tests as a graduation requirement in the high schools, as is done with the current High School Proficiency Assessment. The Christie administration has so far said that such a requirement wouldn’t come for at least several years.

The PARCC tests will be given in two sections, one in March that focuses on performance-based skills and one in May that is more content-based.

Each test will be given within a 20-day window, with students using laptops or other technology to complete the assessments in language arts and math.

Nonetheless, when it’s all added up, it will be clearly more time. The PARCC update yesterday delineated between the amount of time spent on administration and what it described as estimated time for completion.

For instance, a third grader would see four different administrations of the language arts test that would take up to 270 minutes — or more than four hours – but the estimated time to complete is roughly three hours.