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Common-Core Online Practice Tests Unveiled

Students, parents, and teachers who are anxious or merely curious about the coming online assessments matched to the Common Core State Standards will now have the opportunity to go through a test run of sorts.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two major coalitions of states designing the tests, has released sets of online sample test questions for grades 3-8 and 11 in both English language arts and math, the first two subjects to be tested. The common-core tests will be delivered online in participating states during the 2014-15 academic year.

That will be a major undertaking, and whether the online run-throughs will ease some of the recent agitation about the challenges of implementing those online tests remains to be seen. A number of states have experienced serious breakdowns on their own, online statewide assessment systems recently, leading some to question how smoothly a larger, multi-state testing model will perform.

And many state and district officials have voiced worries about the capability of existing technology systems in schools to handle the strain of administering the tests at the same time they're asked to perform other, day-to-day classroom and administrative functions.

The first link in the second paragraph of this blog item lists the operating systems and browers that can be used for the practice tests. (See my recent Ed Week story on the choices districts face in choosing operating systems for the common core.) Once you're on the page, you will be able to follow a series of steps that brings you to the practice items.

The mock-up test includes constructed-response, selected-response, and technology-enhanced items, as well as performance tasks, which Smarter Balanced officials describe as extended-length activities that ask students to apply skills and knowledge to "real-world" problems. The practice tests don't cover all the features that will eventually be included on the actual common-core exams: Students won't receive reports or scores, and while the actual tests will be computer-adaptive, the practice model will follow a "fixed-form" model.

The unveiling of the practice tests is not Smarter Balanced's first effort to test-drive the common-core tests. Earlier this year, more than 5,000 schools in 21 states participating in the Smarter Balanced coalition took part in a pilot test, which amounted to a "large-scale tryout of items and performance tasks," consortium officials said.

The practice tests will offer schools and districts a "resource for professional development and outreach," Joe Wilhoft, the executive director of the Smarter Balanced consortium, said in a statement.


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