PARCC Working to Shorten Its Tests

By Catherine Gewertz — April 16, 2015 2 min read
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PARCC officials say they are working on ways to shorten their assessment and administer it during one window, instead of the two periods currently required.

That news came in testimony Wednesday night before a committee of the Ohio legislature, which is considering whether to keep PARCC—the exam the state gave for the first time this year—or dump it. The tests can take nine to 11 hours, though many students finish earlier.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, PARCC’s chief of assessment, Jeff Nellhaus, told the House’s test review committee that the consortium is working with Pearson, which was a key player in designing the test, to combine the performance tasks with the end-of-year portion of the test.

This year, students in the District of Columbia and 10 states are taking the longer, more complex performance tasks between Feb. 6 and May 8. They are taking the end-of-year portion, which consists of multiple choice and short-answer items, between April 13 and June 5.

States choose four-week windows within those periods, and districts have some flexibility in scheduling the test over those weeks. As we reported a few months ago, Ohio chose one of the earliest testing windows, beginning Feb. 16, which caused some concern and stress in its teacher corps.

Nellhaus told the committee that PARCC officials recognize that parents and schools are unhappy about the length of the test. He said the consortium wants to “streamline” the tests into one window and make them “somewhat shorter,” according to the Plain Dealer. Nellhaus didn’t say how long the streamlined version might be.

“We’re seriously looking at this,” Nellhaus is quoted as saying. “This isn’t a bunch of happy talk. We have heard what you all are saying.”

He said that PARCC officials are meeting with Ohio and other states, and aim to submit a recommendation for revised design to the PARCC governing board within a couple of weeks.

How much money will be available to pay for a revised PARCC or any kind of test has come into question, however.

Republican leaders in the Ohio House have written language into the budget that would eliminate the money to pay for PARCC or a replacement test, according to the Columbus Dispatch. That move drew an immediate warning from the U.S. Department of Education that Ohio could lose $750 million in federal funding if it fails to test students as required by federal law.

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