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ED Approves Consortium's Scaled-Back Test Design

By guest blogger Stephen Sawchuk

The U.S. Department of Education has "conditionally approved" a decision by one of the two consortia developing assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards to reduce the number of testing components in its plan.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, initially envisioned a series of four "through-course" assessments to be given over the course of the year, with the scoring rolled up into a year-end summative score. States, though, raised concerns about this plan costing too much, eating up too much class time, and exerting too much control over curriculum.

The change makes the first two components optional and will place the remaining assessments at the end of the year. One of them will be computer-based, and the other will consist of essays and performance tasks.

In its letter dated Dec. 15, the Education Department said that PARCC will still need to submit evidence used to inform the design of the summative tests and a work plan for finalizing them. As you'll recall, the department is underwriting the development of these tests.

One other interesting item in this notice: PARCC also indicated it will build two sequences of high school math assessments, one for "course based" math (think Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2) and another for those states that integrate the two subjects throughout students' high school careers. The ED made a note of saying that PARCC states must still ensure all states adopt achievement standards to ensure students are college- and career-ready. It looks like the agency wants to remind states that they can't make one math pathway less rigorous than the other.

The other testing consortium, SMARTER Balanced, still envisions using several performance tasks as part of the summative score. They would be administered during the final 12 weeks of school.

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