Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PARCC Assessment and Instructional Implications

This week I attended a session presented by one of the PARCC Fellows from Massachusetts and one of the PARCC item developers, a retired Massachusetts educator. Though some information reinforced what I already know and use, there were moments of greater clarity and deeper understanding of how looking at the development of the assessments may inform our instructional choices. Why? The Consortium has reminded us that what it provides should be used as resources that demonstrate how it understands and uses the standards in its work.

Some of the ideas that I found most interesting:
  • Many MCAS accommodations will be available as accessibility features for all students. Among the 14 listed for all students are highlight tool, pop-up glossary, spell checker, and headphones. A complete list and further clarifications may be found at This site provides the complete PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual.
  • Instructional Implications: Teachers should be using all of the features as part of their plans for Universal Design (UDL)/Differentiated Instruction (DI) when writing unit and lesson plans. Students should have access to these as needed for a variety of learning, processing, and performing (assessment) situations.
  • Item Developers are required to consider the three global shifts represented by the standards as they prepare the items - Engage with Complex Texts - Extract & Employ Evidence - Build Knowledge.
  • Instructional Implications: Teachers and students should be working with evidence to support claims and answers to questions in the reading, discourse, and writing that is the daily work of every classroom. Further, not only should the texts used for building knowledge be complex at the grade level, but what students are asked to do with the knowledge and skills learned should be complex (challenging, performance-based tasks and assessments).
  • Item Developers are asked to use the language of the standards in the writing of assessment items.
  • Instructional Implications: Teachers and students must use the language of the standards in their daily encounters. Third graders must be able to recognize and understand what is meant when asked to, "Distinguish their own points of view from that of the author of a text." .  
  • Items are often structured in two parts with the second part having more than one answer.
  • Instructional Implications: Teachers should adjust the questioning they are currently employing to demonstrate that the same passage may be read several times for more than one reason, that there may be several points in a passage that support a particular claim, that students must persist in reading and thinking about the complex texts in ways that they may not be used to doing. Students will need lots of practice with reading and rereading, with academic discourse to amplify and explore ideas, with sufficient time to write and to save notes over time in order to connect ideas from one text to another.
  • PARCC has broken down the standards into parts and will report out the specific part that the item addresses. For instance, for Grade 3, Standard 1 in Reading Informational Text:
    • RI 1: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
    • is divided into..."Provides questions and answers that show understanding of a text." (1) and "Provides explicit references to the text as the basis for the answers." (2)
  • Instructional Implications: Use the PARCC Evidence Tables to understand (unpack) the standards. They are available at:

    The session I attended gave me lots to think about and to share. I hope you are able to take some of this information and use it to help you more completely understand and use the standards - to slow down and proceed more deeply with the learning. Though the work is complex, the students are capable, and by working collaboratively we can adjust our instructional activities to more fully engage in the work, supporting all students as they achieve high quality learning.