New Common Core Practice Test Posted Online

By Rob Klindt

common-core-logoA practice test has been posted online to give parents and teachers a preview of the kinds of things children will be expected to know thanks to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

Teachers will be held accountable for making sure lessons meet the Common Core guidelines, which set specific K-12 standards for teaching English language arts and mathematics. Since 2010, a majority of states have adopted CCSS guidelines.

Implementation of Common Core is having profound effects on classrooms across the nation. In particular, it is raising concerns that there simply are not enough hours in the school day to add even more expectations to the ones placed on teachers and students already.

David Farbman, a senior researcher at the National Center on Time & Learning, put it this way in a blog post in June 2012: “How can we possibly expect students to know and do more than ever but provide no more time in which to do so?  As I’m fond of saying, it is like asking a runner to complete a 10-mile race in the same time it takes her to run a 5-mile one.” Having samples of anticipated test questions in hand could help teachers address that time crunch.

What the practice test covers

The CCSS initiative includes assessments that are important tools for teachers and school administrators to track student progress across all grade levels. A much-anticipated computer-based version of the test is planned to be released in 2015.

Teachers, parents and others who want a sneak peek at updates to the test can check out a new set of sample questions and a practice test that were recently posted online. The updates were developed and released by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two nationwide organizations helping states meet CCSS guidelines.

The practice test is designed for grades 3-8 and 11 and includes:

  • Constructed-response questions. Students are asked to give short-answer responses to questions of varying difficulty on core subjects.
  • Selected-response questions. Students answer true-false, matching, multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions.
  • Performance tasks. Smarter Balanced officials describe these as “extended-length activities that ask students to apply skills and knowledge to ‘real-world’ problems.”
  • Technology-enhanced items. These include tasks that may involve research using Internet tools.

In a report posted on EdSource, an online education industry magazine, Smarter Balanced Executive Director Joe Willhoft said the practice tests will be available online for two years so educators will have a chance to examine them and share their thoughts.

Computer adaptive

Responding to concerns that not all students learn at the same rate, Smarter Balanced officials describe the updated test as computer adaptive. For example, if a student answers a question correctly, the test software will generate a more difficult question. If the response is wrong, the software will generate an easier question.

The idea behind this, according to Smarter Balanced officials, is to allow the tests to develop an individually tailored set of questions to all students. That can help determine which subjects students need additional help with.

Among the administrative benefits of computer-adaptive testing for teachers are streamlined testing and grading processes, and the ability to get results quickly.