Jan 2, 2015

PARCC: Potential Problems and Possible Helps (ELA)

I had the opportunity to observe several grades as they reviewed the PARCC ELA 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Reference passages:
  • Use the highlight tool to mark important ideas, words, or other elements that will help respond to questions.
  • Understand how to use paragraph and/or line numbers make use of paragraph numbers when referring back to the text.
  • Know that there may be multiple passages (tabs), and that it will often be necessary to scroll down to see the full passage. 

Audio and video: 
  • Test the volume and headset BEFORE logging in to the test.
  • Know how to work the controls (play, pause, volume, jump).
  • Know how to access a specific point in a sound recording or video (time reference).

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.

  • 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.