Assessment Consortium Releases Testing Time Estimates

By Catherine Gewertz — March 05, 2013 3 min read
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New tests being designed for students in nearly half the states in the country will take eight to 10 hours, depending on grade level, and schools will have a testing window of up to 20 days to administer them, according to guidance released today.

The new information comes from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, one of the two big groups of states that are building tests in mathematics and English/language arts for the common standards. It answers one of the big, dangling questions that’s attended the process of making these new tests: Given their promises to measure students’ skills in a deeper, more nuanced way, partly through the use of extended performance tasks, just how long will these tests take?

The other group of states designing tests, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, has already come out with time estimates for its tests, as we reported to you in December. Those testing times—seven to eight and a half hours—are what students in 24 states will face; with PARCC’s estimates out now, we have a better sense of what students in the remaining 22 states and the District of Columbia can anticipate.

PARCC has a flurry of documents out on this today, and you can see them on the group’s website. In addition to information on test times and testing windows, the consortium has created a planning tool that schools and districts can use to gauge their technological capacity. They can enter their own information to determine how long the tests will take them given their current hardware and bandwidth, and can play with it to see how their capacity changes by adding, say, more devices to their lineups.

The heart of PARCC’s information about testing times and windows is contained in its “guidance” document. Keep in mind that the math and ELA sections of PARCC tests consist of two parts: a performance-based assessment, given after about three-quarters of the school year, including more in-depth, extended exercises; and an end-of-year computer-based component, given after 90 percent of the year. Here’s how it boils down:

Performance-Based Assessment:

ELA/Literacy: Three tasks, for which students will have to read one or more texts, answer several short comprehension and vocabulary questions, and write an essay based on evidence from what they just read. The three tasks will be a research simulation, a literary analysis, and a narrative task.

Math: At each grade level, there will be short and extended-response questions focused on conceptual knowledge and skills, as well as the math practices of reasoning and modeling.

End-of-Year Assessment:

ELA/Literacy: Students will read four to five texts, both literary and informational, and respond to short-answer comprehension and vocabulary questions for each.

Will be comprised primarily of short-answer questions focused on conceptual knowledge, skills, and understandings.

Number of testing sessions: 9 total

ELA/Literacy: Three sessions for the performance-based component, two for the end-of-year.

Math: Two sessions for the performance-based component, two for the end-of-year.

Estimated time on task for students to complete both the performance-based and end-of-year components in math and ELA:

Grade 3: 8 hours
Grade 4-5: 9 hours, 20 minutes
Grades 6-8: 9 hours, 25 minutes
Grades 9-10: 9 hours, 45 minutes
Grades 11-12: 9 hours, 55 minutes

PARCC documents say that while these amounts of time are what is projected to be needed by the typical student, “all participating students will have a set amount of additional time” to take the tests. This will “provide them with ample time to demonstrate their knowledge” and “reduce the need to provide increased time as an accommodation.” The documents sidestep the issue of exactly how much “additional time” will be given to students, under what conditions. But they say that students with disabilities and those learning English will be given even more time, if it’s called for in their individualized education plans. The types of accommodations given to those student populations are under development; draft policies are slated to be released for public feedback next month.

Testing window:
For students: Five to nine days
For schools and districts: Up to 20 days for the performance-based component of the test, and up to 20 days for the end-of-year component. Schools may administer the tests in narrower windows of time if they have the capacity to do so.

PARCC notes that the information it released today could change, in the wake of research and field-testing, but that “major changes are not anticipated.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.