By Sarah Garland
New high-tech standardized tests are coming soon to schools across the country, but will these new tests really revolutionize how we measure whether children are learning? The designers of the new tests, which a majority of states plan to adopt in two years, are allowing a sneak peek at sample questions.
Two competing state coalitions have taken on the job of designing the new tests, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and both have posted examples of what’s coming on their websites.
- Sample English/Language Arts question from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
- Sample Math question from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
- Sample question from third grade assessment from PARCC
- Sample math question from high school assessment from PARCC
In some questions, which the test designers have called “computer enhanced,” students will be asked to drag words or numbers across the screen, or to highlight phrases or sentences in a reading passage. In one example provided by Smarter Balanced to reporters during a conference call Monday, high school students can click on the screen to transfer water from a cube to a cylinder, which helps them solve a math problem about radius.
Fifth graders at Townsend Elementary in the Appoquinimink district waiting to begin the state standardized reading test. (Photo by Sarah Garland)
There will also be problems that require research and writing. Smarter Balanced officials gave an example of a multi-part question in which high school students are asked to imagine they are the chief of staff for a congresswoman. Before they start working on the test, their teacher is supposed to lead a classroom activity about nuclear power. The students are then asked to come up with a list of pros and cons about nuclear power. Finally, they must write up a presentation for the congresswoman to give at a press conference later that day.
“I can tell you, that’s real world,” said Barbara Kapinus, the director of English language arts and literacy for Smarter Balanced. “I’ve been in that situation.”