Welcome to the Standards Solution blog! Here we’ll share our experiences, challenges, and insights in the age of the Common Core.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with the CCSS and PARCC assessments, too. Please feel free to leave comments. Thank you for reading and sharing.

Preparing for PARCC - Blog Series Part VI

Preparing for PARCC

How to Respond to PARCC Math Items 

“Direction Detective”

This post is part of our blog series on PARCC. In this series, we offer tips and strategies you can use to ensure that your students perform at their very best on the PARCC tests.

Rigor in the PARCC Assessment

I asked students, “How does the new assessment compare to the previous assessment?” The most common response was “the new questions are challenging.”

I asked for more details about how they are challenging. “Thinking more” was the phrase many students used to describe the increased rigor and use of higher-level critical-thinking skills.

Here is how Common Core describes “rigor”: “The standards will include high-level cognitive demands by asking students to demonstrate deep conceptual understanding through the application of content knowledge and skills to new situations.” - http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Criteria.pdf

Increased rigor in the assessment is not just part of the question design and how PARCC measures understanding. It’s also part of how the student is required to provide their answers. Advancements in assessment delivery via technology contribute to this rigor. Consider the critical thinking needed to consider all the possible ways to express a number verses identifying just one way to express a number:

Features to Emphasize in the PARCC Assessment Items

The PARCC assessment features new technology-enhanced items in two categories:

Constructed Response: The student constructs the answer. This could be a single number, an expression, equation or inequality, a completed mathematical model, or a combination of words and math.

Selected Response: A selection of possible responses are provided; the student selects the correct response(s). There are at least seven different styles of these items, including: Drag and Drop, Multiple Select, Multiple Choice, Drop-Down Menus, Sort by Category, Reorder the selections.

A PARCC assessment item is more than a standard math question. Each item has specific directions that describe how the student should provide the answer. Here is a short list of the various directions provided with PARCC practice items:

  • Drag and drop the fractions and operation symbols.
  • You may select more than one box for each figure.
  • Select the correct symbol from each drop down menu.
  • Enter your answer in the space provided.
  • Which explanation about the figures is correct?
  • Enter only your fraction.
  • Choose three statements that correctly describe….
  • Select all that apply.

Because each assessment item has its own unique directions, students need to become a

How to Become a Direction Detective:

  • When practicing with the PARCC Practice Test online, students need to use the electronic highlighter to decipher and to draw attention to the specific directions given with each item.
  • When students practice math in the classroom, students should use a highlighter to decipher the directions for any task. Allow the student to do this independently and then check for understanding by asking the student to state the directions in his or her own words.
  • Incorporate similar styles of questions and accompanying directions in the tasks used in the classroom. If the direction sentences are commonplace, they become familiar.
  • Ask students to recognize what error(s) can occur when the directions are ignored.

Standards Solution and Inspired Instruction offer 540 PARCC lesson plans, online PARCC-like assessments with technology-enhanced items, PARCC workshops, and PARCC demonstration lessons. Please contact Judy Cataldi for more information. 

Standards Solution Holding, LLC is not owned by or affiliated in any fashion with PARCC, Inc.

Preparing for PARCC - Blog Series Part V

Preparing for PARCC
Aligning English Language Arts Instructional Practices

This post is part of our blog series on PARCC. In this series, we offer tips and strategies you can use to ensure that your students perform at their very best on the PARCC tests.

Regardless of how you feel about PARCC, or any standardized test, I think that in PARCC states we can all agree, at this moment it is necessary to prepare our students for the experience. And to be honest, I don’t think that preparing for PARCC is a waste of instruction time. PARCC is a test that evaluates students’ progress toward college and career readiness.  It is a test of our students’ competence regarding the Common Core State Standards. Therefore, when we are preparing students for PARCC we are applying and practicing the Common Core. That is what we are supposed to do.

But what does a fully aligned classroom look like?

“The PARCC assessments are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and were created to measure students' ability to apply their knowledge of concepts rather than memorizing facts.”  (NJDOE)

 In English language arts (ELA), students will be required to:
  • Closely read multiple passages
  • Write essay responses in literary analysis, research tasks and narrative tasks

Close Reading

So what is close reading and how do we apply it in the classroom?

Characteristics of Close Reading
  • Uncovers layers of meaning in a text
  • Invites a careful reading of the text
  • Requires a text to be read multiple times
  • Requires that students be asked a range of text-dependent questions

Text-Dependent Questions
  • Can only be answered with evidence from the text.
  • Can be literal but must also involve analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
  • Focus on word, sentence, and paragraph, as well as larger ideas, themes, or events.
  • Focus on difficult portions of the text in order to enhance reading proficiency.
  • Can also include prompts for writing and discussion questions.
  • (achievethecore.com)

Applying Close Reading and Asking Text-Dependent Questions

One implication of conducting close reading and asking text-dependent questions is that classroom tasks should require students to provide both oral and written responses to questions about the text in which the answers are found within the text and are not based on prior knowledge, experience or opinion.
  • Instructors should spend more time teaching students how to find evidence from the text.
  • Instructors need to consider and create text-dependent questions before instruction.
  • Instructors should attend professional development workshops to learn how to apply close reading strategies.

Literary Analysis Tasks

How do students complete LATs?
  • Students carefully consider two literary texts worthy of close study.
  • They are asked to answer a few EBSR and TECR questions about each text to demonstrate their ability to do close analytic reading and to compare and synthesize ideas.
  • Students write a literary analysis about the two texts.

PARCC’s LATs and RSTs are a new and unusual writing task for both instructors and students.  But at the heart of a literary analysis task is the understanding that authors write for specific purposes. And the student’s thesis in a LAT is his/her perspective of the author’s choices that are supported with evidence from the text.  To assist students to write quality LATs they need to have a strong understanding of the elements of literature and an understanding of how to construct the essay.

Please view the blog, “6-Step Process for Writing LATs and RSTs” to learn how to assist your students to complete these essays. 

Some topics that instructors might want to focus on include:
  • Elements of Literature
  • Word Choice
  • Genres
  • Literary Devices 

Research Simulation Tasks

The other new and unusual writing task is the Research Simulation Task (RST).

How do students complete RSTs?
  • Students begin by reading an anchor text that introduces the topic. 
  • EBSR and TECR items ask students to gather key details about the passage to support their understanding.
  • Students read one or two additional sources and answer a few questions about each text to learn more about the topic, so they are ready to write the final essay and to show their reading comprehension.
  • Finally, students mirror the research process by synthesizing their understandings into a writing that uses textual evidence from the sources.

Some of the concepts that students will be asked to write about include:
  • Main Idea and Supporting Details: Students read one text and identify main idea and supporting details
  • Cause and Effect: Students read another text and identify the cause and effect
  • Claim and Evidence: Students read another text and identify claim, supporting evidence and explanation

Instructors can help students to complete RSTs by:
  • Familiarizing students with RST elements
  • Building students’ skills related to evidence
  • Helping students improve their writing skills 

Let’s talk about evidence. How do students select the best evidence to support their claim? Here are a couple of thought-provoking activities you can use in your classroom:

Narrative Tasks

The narrative tasks on PARCC are the most familiar to our students.  

How do students complete the narrative tasks?
  • Students read a literary text.
  • Students answer EBSR or TECR items
  • Students write a narrative story (PCR)

Some of the elements that students will need to hone in order to perform well on this task include:
  • Point of view
  • Developing strong voice
  • Identifying mood, tone and voice

Students will also need to improve the quality of their essays:
  • Show Don’t Tell
  • Strong Character Development
  • Improved Dialogue
  • Powerful Language

Here are a couple of activities that instructors can use to enhance students understanding of the narrative task requirements:

It is our sincerest wish that you find value in these ideas and resources and begin to integrate the concepts that students will experience on PARCC. Please let us know if we can help you make your classroom or school more fully aligned with the Common Core and PARCC.

Standards Solution and Inspired Instruction offers 540 PARCC lesson plans, online PARCC-like assessments with technology-enhanced items, PARCC workshops, and PARCC demonstration lessons. Please contact Judy Cataldi for more information:  

Judy.cataldi@standardssolution.com or call 908-223-7202.

Standards Solution Holding, LLC is not owned by or affiliated in any fashion with PARCC, Inc.