PARCC Task Prototypes and New Sample Items for Mathematics

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The primary purpose of sharing samples of PARCC items is to provide information about the assessment system and support educators as they transition to the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC tests.  The samples presented here are designed to shine a light on important elements of the CCSS and to show how critical content in the standards may appear in PARCC’s next-generation, technology-based assessments.

Samples in PDF format can be found by clicking on each grade level on the left menu. There are two types of samples found on these pages:

  • Task Prototypes, which were released in August 2012; and, 
  • Sample Items, which were released beginning on August 15, 2013

The task prototypes were created to provide viable early models to guide item development.  The sample items represent the current state of PARCC item development and provide users a snapshot of what the 2014-2015 assessments will look like.  

The sample items were first presented in PDF format to emphasize a focus on the content of the items.  


Considerations for Using Task Prototypes and Sample Items

To aid educators and experts in the field and gather additional feedback for the item development process, PARCC released a set of prototypes in 2012 that were reviewed by content and assessment experts in the PARCC states.  While they continue to be useful for implementation purposes, the prototypes were PARCC’s “best guess” at standards-aligned items and did not undergo the extensive review process and field testing that will be carried out before any items are included on actual PARCC assessments.
In contrast with the prototypes, the new sample items were developed through the same process as future items that will populate the PARCC assessments—one that included reviews by content, bias and assessments experts in PARCC and focused on rigor of content, alignment to the standards and evidence statements and reflected bias and sensitivity review guidance. Like the prototypes, they have been reviewed by content and assessment experts in PARCC.
The sample items are primarily for the purposes of communications and training around the type of items one will see on the PARCC Assessments.  The sample items are not intended to be a practice test, and are not meant to mirror full-length assessments that address the full range of the standards. Field testing for all operational PARCC items will occur in spring 2014.
Because the sample items have been developed to illustrate how the various items types are being created to measure PARCC evidence statements, and because they are first presented as PDFs, they do not appear exactly in the form they will take when included on actual PARCC assessment online delivery platform. However, accompanying each sample item are annotations to support the user in gaining a deeper understanding of PARCC and the CCSS.  To ensure consistent stylistic elements, all PARCC assessment items are being written to adhere to criteria addressed in the PARCC Style Guides.

PARCC’s Alignment to the Common Core

PARCC assessments will be tightly aligned to the Common Core State Standards. There are three shifts in mathematics, described below. These are shifts the Standards require of teachers and students – and they will be reflected in the PARCC assessments as well. This will help ensure that the assessments mirror the expectations of the classroom.
Common Core Shifts for Mathematics
1. Focus: The standards focus in on the key content, skills and practices at each grade level
2. Coherence: Content in the standards builds across the grades, and major topics are linked within grades
3. Rigor: In major topics, the standards highlight conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application

Advances in the PARCC Assessments

Better standards require better tests – and the shifts in the standards call for critical advances in assessment quality. PARCC will develop custom items and tasks aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
In regards to the mathematics assessments, this means PARCC will include:
Problems worth doing: Multi-step problems, conceptual questions, applications, and substantial procedures will be common, as in an excellent classroom.
Focus: Instead of randomly sampling a mile-wide array of topics, PARCC assessments will have a strong focus where the standards focus. This will reinforce the concept of “going deep” rather than simply "covering topics."=

PARCC’s Development Process

The PARCC development process prioritized understanding the Standards and high quality instruction first. To ensure that the assessment will be based on a rich model of instruction aligned with the CCSS, the PARCC Model Content Frameworks for educators were developed based on the Standards before the assessment blueprints were designed. The Model Content Frameworks were developed through a state-led process led by mathematics and ELA/literacy content experts in PARCC member states, including teachers, higher education representatives, and members of the Common Core State Standards writing team. The Frameworks highlight key elements of excellent instruction aligned with the CCSS, and in turn, informed the assessment blueprint design.  Unlike the task prototypes, the new sample items align directly to PARCC’sItem Specifications.

PARCC’s Commitment to Accessibility

PARCC is committed to providing all students with equitable access to its high-quality assessments.  PARCC assessment items and tasks are being developed using principles of universal design. Universal design principles are applied in all kinds of environments to make things as usable as possible by all, regardless of age, ability or life status. 
In the area of student assessment, this means writing items and tasks free of design features that are irrelevant to the content being assessed. For example, a commitment to using plain language, rather than unnecessarily complex language structures in a mathematics problem, allows all students the opportunity to better demonstrate their mathematical understanding. This is especially important for English language learner (ELLs) for whom complex English language structures in test items could interfere with a student’s ability to demonstrate his or her mathematics skills and knowledge. 
In its commitment to Universal Design, PARCC is working to provide accessible test administration as well as accessible assessment design.  Accordingly, PARCC will take advantage of its computer-based assessments to build in supports that are not possible with paper-based tests.  For example, students will be able to control the size of the text in a question to meet their needs; supporting all students, and making it less likely that students with some visual impairments will require special accommodations.
All students will have access to certain word processing tools to write their essays, but one that will be especially helpful to students is the spell checker feature.  Illustrations of items with these and similar accessibility features will be demonstrated on future additions to this website.
While external accommodations may still be needed for some students to demonstrate what they know and can do, use of principles of universal design and built-in supports will increase access to the greatest number of students taking the assessments, and greatly reduce the burden on school staff to provide extensive accommodations during testing.  This assessment format provides a more “real world” environment for students and leverages technology for student access.



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