Testing Group Delays Some Components for One Year

By Catherine Gewertz — June 27, 2013 3 min read
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One of the two big assessment consortia has decided to delay by one year the delivery of some of its nonsummative components, senior officials of the group disclosed today.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, will deliver three pieces of its suite of assessments by 2015-16, instead of 2014-15 as originally planned: diagnostic tests for grades 2-8, tests of speaking and listening skills, and assessment activities designed to gauge the skill levels of kindergarten and 1st graders, said Laura Slover, PARCC’s senior vice president.

For that change in plans, PARCC had to seek permission from the U.S. Department of Education, which is funding test development by PARCC and the other consortium of states, Smarter Balanced. The department granted PARCC a one-year, no-cost extension, meaning that the work timeline is being extended without additional grant money being awarded.

The summative pieces of PARCC’s system—a performance-based assessment that is given three-quarters of the way through the school year and end-of-course tests given at the end of the year—are still on schedule for delivery in the 2014-15 school year, Slover said. Also on schedule for delivery that same year is the consortium’s optional midyear performance-based assessment and its “Partnership Resource Center,” an online library of instructional resources such as model units and formative tools.

For a refresher on the design of PARCC’s assessment system, with its various components, you can refer to the illustration on page 7 of the most recent update from ETS’ K-12 Center, which has tracked the two consortia as their designs have evolved.

(You might recall that PARCC downsized its budget for the formative and diagnostic work a bit last December.)

PARCC sought the extension so it could “double down” on staff and state work that supports the development of the summative assessment, Slover told me this morning.

“As we enter the final stretch, reaching that goal on time, to assure delivery in school year 2014-15, is the highest priority,” she said. “Many states are counting on it and don’t have other assessment systems, don’t have a different plan. So they’re really counting on PARCC.”

A request-for-proposals has been issued for the K-1, diagnostic, and speaking-and-listening tests, she said. Once that contract is awarded, the work will be staggered across time as states, vendors, and PARCC staff move the summative work along, she said.

Doug Sovde, who is overseeing the nonsummative work as the director of PARCC’s instructional supports, said that item development for the K-1, diagnostic, and speaking-and-listening assessments should take place between February and November of 2014. A field test of those tools is planned for early in 2015, and they are scheduled to become available to educators in the summer of 2015. That schedule will allow the consortium to focus completely on the field test of the summative pieces of its system in the spring of 2015, Sovde said.

The one-year extension for the nonsummative pieces of PARCC’s work is not a sign that the consortium is any less committed to those pieces than it has been, Slover said. It’s a recognition of the complexity and focus needed in order to build the summative test—which states are relying on for their accountability systems—in time for 2014-15, as the federal government required when it awarded the grants, she said.

“PARCC is fully committed to the nonsummative tools,” she said. “The [assessment] system requires diagnostic tools on an interim basis so teachers and students can get a good sense of how they’re progressing, ... and PARCC states are committed to building them and getting them done as quickly as possible.”

Asked to share thoughts on PARCC’s one-year delay in the nonsummative pieces of the assessment, system, one high-level state official in the consortium said she is content with the way PARCC has prioritized its work.

“The summative pieces are the major deliverable, and the massive need we have in front of us is putting forward a strong, reliable, valid summative test,” said the official, who asked not to be named because she hasn’t been authorized to speak publicly about PARCC issues on behalf of her state.

“I don’t think it’s a statement about being off track or on track. In terms of staging the important work first, PARCC’s right on.”

In her state, use of the nonsummative pieces might not be that robust, she said, because many districts have already invested a good deal in similar tools of their own.

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