PARCC Exam This Year Will Include Additional Section of Practice Questions

John Mooney | February 25, 2016 | Education
One-third of school districts must take part in field trials of new questions, taking up as much as two extra hours of testing time

PARCC kids
As statewide PARCC testing starts up again this spring, there will be a new wrinkle for scores of districts that will need to take part in nearly two hours of so-called field testing of practice questions.

Districts were alerted this week that a third of them will be required to participate in what is a common practice with standardized testing. Different questions and formats are tried out before they are actually used.

The state Department of Education said the practice questions will be in a separate section that will require students to spend an additional 90 to 110 minutes taking the PARCC tests.

Students won’t know which section of the test includes the test questions and which will be those that actually count, a state spokesman said.

Requiring many students to spend extra time the already controversial exams is sure to revive the debate over how much testing is too much testing.

The move comes as the PARCC consortium, a group of 11 states that includes New Jersey, made efforts in the testing’s first year to scale back testing to address concerns overly long administration times.

[related]Among changes planned this year: The tests will be taken in a single week, rather than two windows of testing last year. Overall testing time will be reduced by as much as an hour and a half for some students, for a total of eight to 10 hours, depending on the grade.

The field testing was always planned for 2016, said department spokesman David Saenz, and districts were given advance notice last year.

The trial runs are very much necessary, he added, since nearly half of all testing items are released to the public each year, requiring development of new questions.

Saenz said the language arts test will include the separate section for those students taking part in the field testing.

“Field testing has been done for years, and is done in every statewide assessment,” he said. “This is not unique to PARCC.”

“Because multiple states are involved in PARCC, this lessens the demand for field testing on any one state,” he added. “If NJ had its own statewide assessment, even more field testing would be required.”