Standards

Common-Core Tests to Take Up to 10 Hours

By Catherine Gewertz — March 12, 2013 3 min read

New tests being designed for students in nearly half the states will take eight to 10 hours, depending on grade level, according to guidance released last week.

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 Core State Standards.

The guidance answers one of the big questions that had been hanging over the 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 the tests take?

The other group of states designing tests, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, has already come out with time estimates for its tests. Students in those 24 states will face testing times of seven to 8.5 hours. Now that PARCC has issued its test-time projections, educators in 22 other states and the District of Columbia know how much time students will need to take those exams.

In a flurry of documents issued March 5, PARCC defined not only the time needed to take the math and English/language arts tests, but also the window of time available to administer them.

Schools and districts will have 20 days to give the PARCC performance-based assessment, which occurs after about three-quarters of the school year and focuses on more in-depth, extended exercises. They will have another 20-day window to administer the end-of-year computer-based component, which occurs after 90 percent of the year. Those two components will make up a student’s summative score.

In addition, the consortium released an online planning tool that schools and districts can use to gauge their technological capacity to administer the computer-based tests.

The heart of PARCC’s information about testing times and windows is contained in its “guidance” document. Among the key highlights of its testing plan are:

Performance-Based Test

English/language arts: Three tasks will be assigned, 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 read. The three tasks will be a research simulation, a literary analysis, and a narrative task.
Math: Each grade level will have 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

English/language arts: Students will read four to five texts, both literary and informational, and respond to short-answer comprehension and vocabulary questions for each.
Math: It will be composed primarily of short-answer questions focused on conceptual knowledge, skills, and understandings.

Testing Sesions: Nine total

English/language arts: Three sessions for the performance-based component, two for the end-of-year one.
Math: Two sessions for the performance-based component, two for the end-of-year part.

Estimated Time On Task:

The amount of time students will have to complete both the performance-based and end-of-year components in math and English/language arts:
Grade 3: 8 hours
Grades 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 typical students will need those amounts of time, but that “all participating students will have a set amount of additional time” to take the tests. That 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, and 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 programs. Policies governing what accommodations are given to those students are under development.

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 documents say that testing times and windows could change, in the wake of research and field-testing, but that “major changes are not anticipated.”

A version of this article appeared in the March 13, 2013 edition of Education Week as Common-Core Tests to Take Students Up to 10 Hours

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