10 Things to Know about Common Core Assessments

Helping your child succeed with the Common Core Standards will prepare her for taking on tests designed to monitor students' progress. Here's what you need to know about the Common Core assessment tests.

Why are the tests changing?

Most states that adopted the Common Core Standards are also implementing new tests to assess students' progress on the standards. Most states joined one of the two main testing consortiums, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Because standardized tests are specifically designed to assess standards, a change in standards necessitates a change in the assessment. So this isn't just change for the sake of change. Results from new and improved tests should give you a better picture of your child's mastery of the Common Core Standards.

When will the tests take place?

The timeline for implementation of the standards varies from state to state, but the 2014-2015 school year is the first year that Common Core assessments will be used. Although your child is likely taking practice assessments to get ready for the new assessments, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and PARCC go into full effect during the 2014-2015 school year.

Will the tests be paper-based or computer-based?

One of the major changes accompanying new standards and assessments is that both testing groups, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and PARCC, aspire to administer their tests online. Although some states already offer online testing, others are still using paper and pencils. Because upgrading technology can be a costly and time-intensive process, both tests will still offer a paper-and-pencil option. However, the goal is to move to a fully online administration of the tests in the future.

What subjects will be on the test?

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and PARCC will assess the Common Core Standards in math, English language arts, and literacy. Many states are using these tests to replace the assessments they currently give for math and English language arts, while continuing to develop and use state-based assessments for science and social studies.

What types of questions will my child have to answer?

Based on sample test items released by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and PARCC, students will have to answer a combination of multiple-choice questions and performance-based tasks that involve writing and indicating evidence onscreen in various ways. Take a look at Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Sample Items and Performance Tasks and PARCC Task Prototypes and Sample Items for more information.

Will this test be more difficult than other tests students have taken?

The new assessments are designed to evaluate a wider range of student skills. The reason for developing new tests is to better assess the new standards. Because the new standards outline different content and skills at many grade levels, the new assessments require new types of questions. It is widely expected that the new assessments will be more rigorous than many of the current tests used by various states.

Is there a practice test?

Because the 2014-2015 school year is the target for full implementation of these assessments, many states are administering a field test this year. The purpose of the field test is to gauge technology readiness in participating states. For individual practice on these test items, refer to the sample items and tasks referenced above.

Will my child take the test developed by Smarter Balanced or PARCC?

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and PARCC are separate consortiums made up of member states. For a list of states participating in each consortium, visit Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Member States and PARCC States.

Why are states joining these consortiums?

The purpose of joining one of these consortiums is to develop assessments with other states that have also adopted the Common Core Standards. One of the advantages of working with a consortium is the ability to compare results with other states. This wasn't possible when each state independently developed separate tests for each subject.

Where can I find more information?

On their websites, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and PARCC offer information and resources that help you understand the new assessments and help your child prepare. Both websites enable you to sign up to receive periodic updates on the assessments.

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