Standards

Testing Group Delays Some Components for One Year

By Catherine Gewertz — July 09, 2013 3 min read
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One of the two state consortia developing common-core assessments has decided to delay by one year the delivery of several nonsummative components so it can focus on finishing the summative elements in time to comply with a federal deadline.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, will complete 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 skills of kindergartners and 1st graders, Laura Slover, PARCC’s senior vice president, said late last month.

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

The summative pieces of PARCC’s system—a performance-based assessment to be given three-quarters of the way through the school year and end-of-course tests to be given at the end of the year—are still on schedule for delivery in the 2014-15 school year, Ms. Slover said. Also on schedule for delivery that year, she said, 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.

The 21-member consortium downsized its budget for the formative and diagnostic elements of its work in December, but officials said no additional budget revisions have been made to that work since.

‘Doubling Down’

PARCC sought the timeline extension so it could “double down” on staff and state work that supports the development of the summative assessment, Ms. Slover said.

“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.”

Doug Sovde, who oversees the nonsummative work as the director of PARCC instructional supports, said that item development for the K-1, diagnostic, and speaking-and-listening assessments is scheduled to take place between February and November of 2014. A field test of those tools is planned for early 2015, and they are scheduled to become available to educators in the summer of 2015.

That schedule will allow the consortium to focus on the field test of the summative pieces of its system in the spring of 2015, Mr. Sovde said.

Ms. Slover said the one-year extension for the nonsummative parts of PARCC’s work is not a sign that the consortium is any less committed to those elements than it has been. It’s a recognition of the complexity and focus needed 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.”

State Understanding

Asked for thoughts on the one-year delay, one high-level state official in the consortium said she is content with the way PARCC has set priorities for 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.”

She added that in her state, use of the nonsummative pieces might not be that robust because many districts have already invested a lot in similar tools of their own.

An assessment chief in another PARCC state said the delay didn’t cause controversy among consortium members. “Ideally, everyone would like to have everything done at the same time,” he said. “But there isn’t the bandwidth to do it. People recognize that.”

A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Testing Group Delays Some Components for One Year

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