To the Editor:
Kudos to Education Week for your investigation of the 2014-15 PARCC test scores that were disproportionately lower when taken online, compared with the paper test (“PARCC Scores Lower on Computer Exams”). What I did not see in your report was feedback from educators who actually took both versions of the test, as I did with several Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers practice tests last spring in English/language arts.
It took me about 10 minutes to conclude that there was a glaring mismatch between the skills PARCC was trying to test and the complicated navigation steps necessary to travel through test items. It was clear that the online format was not ready for prime time when it was released. The paper format was significantly more accessible and navigable.
In the online version, a typical reading-comprehension test item required students to scroll down as many as 10 screens in order to finish the passage and arrive at the questions which, in turn, required students to refer back to specific moments in the passage without any mention of the screen, page, or line numbers to which they needed to return. Maddening. Inefficient. And absolutely unreliable.
Unlike a pencil-and-paper test, where students see questions and text side by side or on adjoining pages, PARCC’s online exam posed close-text-analysis questions while leaving students to scroll up to the text and back down to the question in the clunkiest and most awkward of ways.
Nationally adopted standardized tests constitute a near-monopoly in the marketplace. With that much money, instructional time, and stress for students, parents, and educators, we deserve a consumer-driven approach to evaluating tests before they are foisted upon us. User review, with user feedback, would have uncovered these problems before they tainted the test’s reliability.
Robert A. Levin
Department of Educational Foundations
Montclair State University
Co-Founder and Managing Director
Levin Educational Consultants
A version of this article appeared in the February 24, 2016 edition of Education Week as Educator: Online PARCC Test Is ‘Inefficient’ and ‘Unreliable’