Feb 4, 2015

PARCC: Potential Problems and Possible Helps (Math)

I had the opportunity to observe several grades as they reviewed the PARCC Math computer based practice tests. I noticed some potential problem areas, as well as built-in helps. Following are my quick observations, and some tips for success in navigating this new assessment.


Practice:
  • Take time to explore the practice questions and test environment with your students, discussing the features and tools. 
  • Remember that the best PARCC preparation is frequent exposure to and interaction with diverse digital learning tools and environments.
  • GTSD staff are encouraged to contact the Media or Reading Specialists with any questions they may have about the PARCC assessment or environment.


Attitude:
  • Students will need to follow directions, pay attention to cues, and be aware of their actions. Without the help of their teacher.
  • Students should not stress, this is just another way for them to share what they know.


Basic tech skills:
  • Browser basics.
  • Navigate web, websites.
  • Interpret screen layout.
  • Locate and using links, menus, buttons, toggles.
  • Mouse and keyboarding skills (typing, drag/drop, click to select/deselect).
  • Know when to use browser navigation buttons vs those on the page.
  • Scrolling (browser, and elements within browser).
  • Move through multiple reference tabs.
  • Utilize video and audio controls.
  • Recognize and read visual cues on a page.
  • Read and respond appropriately to pop up messages.


Question and response areas:
  • Use the highlight tool to mark important ideas, words, or other elements that will help respond to questions.
  • It will sometimes be necessary to scroll to see the entire question or response area (similar to ELA).
  • Pay attention to whether or not a descriptor is needed with answer (eg 4 apples): fields looking for numbers only will not allow letters -- students will see the error message "invalid input."
  • Exhibits can not be moved, they typically open in the center of the screen.


Audio:
  • Only students who have Text-to-Speech flagged for Math sections (PNP required) will have audio available.
  • Test the volume and headset BEFORE logging in to the test.
  • Know that the reading begins at the top of the page and ends at the bottom. There are no controls to rewind, fast forward, or adjust speed.


Equation editors:
  • Students should be able to recognize and know how to use the characters in the equation editors.
  • These menus may not appear until the student clicks in the response area.
  • Students will need to be able to navigate the equation editor menus, some of which have multiple layers.
  • Access the Equation Editor reference guides on the PARCC site.


Calculators:
  • The menu option for calculators will only appear when students are permitted to use calculators.
  • Calculators have limited mobility on the screen and must be reopened for each question.
  • The "buttons" on the on-screen TI84 characters are small, students need familiarity with the features.


Response areas:
  • Recognize the difference between multiple choice (circles) and multiple selection (squares). Train students to reread the question and verify their response if they select only 1 square. 
  • Read directions and carefully move selections in drag and drop areas. The test interface will allow a claim to be dropped into the evidence column, and evidence into the claims column. 
  • Occasionally the response area includes what looks like a table, but is instead a poorly formatted series of unrelated columns. Students will interact with bad information design in all areas of life, education is certainly not exempt.
  • Google Chrome does not support menu drive copy and paste functions. Students will need to use keyboard shortcuts: Cntrl-C to copy, Cntrl-V to paste, and Cntrl-X to cut.


Error messages:
  • Teach students to STOP clicking and STOP typing when an error message appears. If they click an error message away, it becomes more difficult and time consuming to understand what went wrong.


Tools:
  • Scratch paper can be freely given and used. 
  • Flag questions that are confusing or unclear. 
  • Review before submitting, the test will NOT prevent students from submitting unanswered questions.