PARCC assessments are the new Common-Core aligned tests that will replace the often-controversial DC-CAS exams, which were criticized for providing “point-in-time” measures of student achievement and for ignoring critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Similar to the Common Core State Standards, the PARCC is aimed at creating more of a common ground for students to compete on, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. No matter where a student attends school, he or she will take the same assessment, based on the same standards students in the same grade levels across the country.
But perhaps one of the biggest differences with the PARCC is that these assessments are online. Students will be required to read, write, and annotate text and numbers on a computer. Are D.C. schools technologically ready for this?
One of the first priorities for preparation should be technological readiness. Students need to use computers in their classrooms and schools more frequently, and soft computer skills—such as typing with accuracy—should be of high importance. Students who do not have computers at home should be given more opportunity in their classrooms to use the technology available to them there. Schools without computer labs and/or computer teachers should also get the important resources they need as soon as possible.
As for teachers, there is a lot we can do without technological resources to help prepare our students. One of the most impactful ways is to make sure that everything we teach and assign is deliberate and constantly requires critical thinking and analysis. The Hess Cognitive Rigor Matrix is a great place to start. The matrix contains higher-order thinking questions that span simpler cognitive tasks based on remembering and understanding questions to more complex questions based on analysis and evaluation. Additionally, in Assignments Matter, teacher coach Eleanor Dougherty provides steps and templates on how to create rigorous class assignments and tips on how to extend those assignments outside of the classroom. She also provides a planning guide, unit plan, resources, and sample assignment prompts, among other resources for classroom teachers.
Whether or not DC schools are ready, the PARCC will be here this upcoming spring. Utilizing all, if not limited, resources will be our key to preparing students for this assessment.
Amara Pinnock is an elementary school teacher in DC. Reach her via email or Twitter.