|11-2-15 PARRC Relelases Test Questions - Information Benefits Teacher Instruction and Student Learning|
Star Ledger - Release of PARCC questions sheds light on N.J. state tests
TRENTON — In what New Jersey is calling an unprecedented look inside its state exams, more than 800 test questions from the math and English tests students took last spring are now available online, according to the state.
The questions, released this week by the consortium of states that administered the same exams, represent nearly a full test in English and math for every grade level from third through eleventh. Answer keys, select student essay responses and the scoring rubric for open-ended questions were also released.
"By making these test questions public, teachers can see how their students' learning is being assessed and ultimately understand and reflect on their own classroom instruction," said Bari Erlichson, an assistant state education commissioner.
In the past, practice questions were available for New Jersey's exams, along with one narrative writing essay question from each English test administered in grades three to eight, according to the state.
Aside from the one essay, New Jersey teachers were not allowed to see any other questions from state tests because they were reused in future years, creating "almost like a black box" around the exams, Erlichson said.
New Jersey could release questions this year because it's one of 11 states and the District of Columbia that participated in a common test, formally known as thePartnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams. The PARCC testing consortium has the ability to create and field-test new questions more quickly, Erlichson said.
Education experts say its too soon to draw major conclusions from the PARCC results, which showed that most New Jersey students failed to perform on grade-level on the exams. No more than 52 percent of students in any grade tested met the targeted benchmarks in English or math.
But the released questions do provide more insight into the way PARCC questions were structured — a criticism from some parents before the tests — and what type of questions students faced, said Rose Acerra, president-elect of the New Jersey PTA.
Parents should review the questions so they know exactly what their children saw on the test, Acerra said.
"It might not be as bad as you think it is," she said.
Each exam had between six and eight versions, with different questions that tested the same skills. Several questions from each test version were posted on PARCC's website, forming roughly the equivalent of one full-length test for every subject and grade level.
For essay questions, PARCC released responses from unnamed students and the explanation of those essay scores.
The detailed information about the tests promises to be "exceptionally beneficial" to teaching and learning in New Jersey, said Lawrence Feinsod, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.
But the state's largest teachers union, which has criticized the PARCC exams as unproven and unreliable, isn't sure how useful the release of questions will be, said Steve Baker, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association.
The union is not convinced that all student essays and short responses were scored with consistency, Baker said.
However, the NJEA supports the concept of releasing standardized test questions and answers, he said,
"I think transparency with regard to the test is generally a good thing," Baker said.
Schools should be able to use the test questions, combined with student score reports, to better understand what concepts their students struggled with, said Patricia Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.
"We can really get down to the nitty gritty in terms of where are their areas of strength and where are their areas of weakness," Wright said.
NJ Spotlight - Release Of PARRC Questions, Student Responses Sheds Light On New Exams
ght - …Never-before-available material should prove useful to NJ teachers, curriculum planners
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Even before the New Jersey schools learn their individual results on the new PARCC exams, the public now has a chance to see a good portion of the tests that are have caused such a stir.
For the first time, the PARCC consortium released a segment of the online exams on its website following the first publication of statewide results two weeks ago.
The website is tricky to navigate, and not as clearly labeled as the practice tests that PARCC provided last year.
But what’s available now may be much more useful to teachers and curriculum coordinators – especially when they are given the results – as PARCC has released not just questions, but also the scoring keys for each test and a sampling of actual student responses.
Barely half of New Jersey students taking the maiden version of the new PARCC test in language arts and math were found to meet grade-level “expectations” on any section of the test, while some subject areas showed as few as 25 percent of New Jersey students making the grade.
What all this means will see plenty of discussion in the weeks ahead. The State Board of Education is expected to formalize so-called “cut scores” for the new tests on Wednesday.
The specific results for each school are slated to be provided to the districts -- and released to the public -- in mid-November. Students will receive their individual and confidential results by mail or through their schools.
Meanwhile, what’s been released is far more than what was available before, as previous PARCC tests were kept under wraps so questions could be used again and again, saving considerable costs.
But releasing the questions for each test – or at least a portion of them – was one of the conditions of the state’s commitment to join the PARCC consortium -- now consisting of 11 states and the District of Columbia.
Following are links to some of the test items that were released, along with the corresponding scoring keys:
Garden State Coalition of Schools