Testing the Test

Mar 18, 2014

In school districts across Rhode Island, some 9,000 students are about to get a taste of the test replacing NECAP next year. The students are participating in field testing for the test, known as PARCC, starting next week.

PARCC is slated to be used in 17 states. Rhode Island's Education Commissioner Deborah Gist says the field testing comes as designers refine the exam, and will give teachers, administrators and students a chance to prepare for next year.

"So there are about 9,000 students who are participating in the PARCC testing in about 260 of our schools," Gist said. "Its just a sampling really of different grades and classes at schools across the state."

Scores from the practice test will not count for any students or teacher evaluations. Gist says the field testing will involve 3-5 hours of testing for students, spread out over a three-week period.

The PARCC test represents a transition to computer-based testing in Rhode Island, which means school districts must have enough computers available to their students. Paper versions of PARCC will be available for next year and for the upcoming practice test.

Rhode Island is one of several states where critics have moved to delay implementation of PARCC, arguing the test is too hard. It was designed to include a large portion of short and long answer questions, instead of the multiple choice questions common in standardized testing

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist rejects claims the new test is too difficult. She says it is complex, but she believes it will push students just the right amount.

"We don’t want to create a culture in our schools where people feel stressed out," Gist said. "But we want them to be stretched, we want them to strive to the greatest of their abilities."

When PARCC is in full effect, it will be administered twice a year, once in April and once closer to the end of the school year.