A walk in the PARCC?

August 30, 2014 at 6:40 pm 42 comments


Okay, that was a seriously cheesy headline but I couldn’t resist.

The PARRC test is coming to replace the ISATs as the standard test taken in all Illinois public elementary schools.

The assumption is that at some point, the PARRC scores will be used as the entry criteria standardized test component for selective enrollment schools.  For now, CPS is still going with NWEA MAP scores for admission.


Some parents on Facebook have taken some of the practice tests and shared their feedback.  Take a look and let us know what you think.  I personally have a hard time with computer-administered tests.  I don’t know if I was conditioned that was from growing up with Scantrons and a nice #2 pencil, or if it’s the way my brain works.  I tried the 6-8th grade math.  I could certainly have completed all the answers (correctly, I’m quite certain) but frankly I didn’t have the brain power to do it..  Oh… I am so happy I’m not taking middle school math right now.   I love me some math, but long laborious word problems make me turn into a 7th grader saying “when will I ever use this stuff????”  (For the record, I do use some of it my job.)

I found the “explain how you know this/show your work” portion to be challenging.  The software is difficult to use and my computer moves slowly.  I have no idea how the CPS computers work, but I feel bad if you’re the kid who gets the dud computer in the room.

I’m going to try an easier math year to see how the interface works when I’m not wincing about the problems I have to solve.





Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Back to School Sept 2014 Sun Times/Blaine Principal Analysis shows neighborhood schools outperform charters on MAP growth

42 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cpsobsessed  |  August 30, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Practice MATH and READING:

  • 2. cpsobsessed  |  August 30, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Also, does anyone know if the kids are allowed to have calculators or scrap paper? (I assume they’d need one of those 2 to complete the math questions.)

  • 3. €£¥  |  August 30, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Thank you for posting. I’m eager to hear what others think about the PARCC. I tried the third grade reading portion, and although I finished it with no problem (yay me!) it seemed that some of the directions were unnecessarily confusing.

    I am in the camp who happens to think there is far too much testing. Some is necessary, but what is happening right now is ridiculous.

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  August 30, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I agree for the most part. I was fine with ISAT once a year. I think most people were. MAP is weird becasue it’s continuous. I might support it more if I thought all of cps was really using it to personalize learning. Ie, my sons math map fell throughout the year. I don’t think anyone has or will comment on that nor change his work at all.

    I guess it helped me — I just shelled out around $1200 for math tutoring this summer…

    So it all adds up to what feels like a lot of testing, yes.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 5. CarolA  |  August 30, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    In my school. all teachers did either the reading or the math test for about 20 minutes to get a feel for it. Our comments were the following: Pros: You can go back to fix an answer or move forward on your own (NWEA adjusts itself, no going forward or back on your own). Concerns: Difficult to find some of the “tools” on the dashboard such as a protractor. Having to find more than one correct answer (e.g. Pick the 3 out of the 6 that are correct. ) Providing the evidence for an answer. Multi step problems….must answer the first part in order to solve the next.

    All in all, it really aligns well with what the Common Core is all about. It’s where teachers will need to go with the curriculum. The idea is to teach more quality (dig deeper) and less quantity and build from year to year. For example….first grade will work heavily on addition and subtraction at deeper levels. Coins (money) not a Common Core for first grade. In reading…..having students justify (evidence) an answer. Valuable tool in life. I like it, but teacher styles will have to change. Less worksheets, less textbooks, more authentic literature, articles, etc. More flexible work groupings. More rich discussions.

  • 6. CarolA  |  August 30, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    more types of “rich” (deeper) discussions

  • 7. Yet another Lincoln parent  |  August 30, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    I just sat down this week & attempted the grade 3 ELA test questions 1-11. I was a bit horrified. While the intent of the test seems good–e.g. what is the meaning of master as used in paragraphs 5 and 6 and which statement best supports your answer–the best supporting statement seems anything but obvious to me let alone what I would expect from an average 3rd grader. This would seem more appropriate for a classroom discussion. In fact my initial reaction to reading the answer choices was that the test writer was not likely a strong writer him/herself!

  • 8. cpsobsessed  |  August 30, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Very interesting points, carol. That helps put it in context.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 9. SoxSideIrish4  |  August 31, 2014 at 12:15 am

    4. cpsobsessed | August 30, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    “MAP is weird because it’s continuous. I might support it more if I thought all of cps was really using it to personalize learning. Ie, my sons math map fell throughout the year.”

    I wouldn’t be worried if your son’s numbers fell throughout the year. Anytime there is adaptive learning/testing~those numbers can’t really be trusted to score your child’s ability.

  • 10. Betsy  |  August 31, 2014 at 7:59 am

    “more types of “rich” (deeper) discussions”

    A group of kids discussing something they have no real knowledge about is not a plus. Common core is a disaster. Luckily more states are dropping out and more teacher unions are protesting. Let the local school district decide the best teaching methods for their students, not central planning in DC. In the meantime, thank goodness for private schools.

  • 11. Cheryl  |  August 31, 2014 at 10:51 am

    No calculators or scrap paper is allowed with PARCC. A big challenge since many relied on calculators to get the answer in previous tests. (MAP has a calculator available for some math problems but not all)

    The students will need to learn about the PARCC dashboard before taking the test, as well as some computer skills (typing) in order to complete the test within the time limit.

  • 12. CarolA  |  August 31, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Betsy: That’s the whole idea….teachers will need to give the students the necessary knowledge BEFORE rich discussions can occur. Teachers will have to model the correct way to have discussions. Teachers will have to provide plenty of examples of the task at hand. It’s not like on DAY ONE we are having groupings, multi-step problems, etc. It’s a building process. Heard on the news this morning that recent information shows that many neighborhood schools in Chicago are outperforming charter schools? Private is not always best. My school is leaps and bounds above any private/charter school. I guarantee it. Are all schools there yet? Absolutely not. Grouping schools into chunks of neighborhood, charter, private is not a good idea. Having an understanding of INDIVIDUAL schools is the correct thing to do. Are schools in Wilmette so much better than in Chicago? Some are, some aren’t. Look at the data. Common Core requires students to think about answers rather than select from A, B, C, D. Common Core is about knowing that there COULD be more than one right answer. Common Core is closer to needed life skills than any other standards I’ve worked with in 28 years. Is it hard? You bet. Does it require change? Of course. We will get there. Have you read the Common Core standards?

    Cheryl: Is it really true that they can’t use scratch paper? I’d check on that. I had to use scratch paper and I only took the 3rd grade math test! Calculators I’m sure are not permitted, but scratch paper? HMMMM. That would be tough.

  • 13. CarolA  |  August 31, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    So I’m trying to think of some quick scenarios where “Common Core thinking” might be an advantage in life…….You are at the doctor and he wants to do a procedure…you ask….is there something else that can be done instead? Would you like him to give other options or say that there’s only one way? You are wanting to try a new meal for the family and decide on a particular dish. You Google for a recipe. Would you like there to be only one choice which includes an ingredient you can’t stand/are allergic to…..or would you like there to be several choices and you can pick one that works for you? How will you choose? What criteria would you use? You can’t decide which school to send your child to…..will you close your eyes and just pick one or will you research many and determine which is the best fit for your child? Just saying…….

  • 14. Calculators  |  August 31, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    “No calculators or scrap paper is allowed with PARCC.”

    I tried the eight grade math test and there was a calculator section and a non-calculator section (neither of which should have required any use of calculators).

  • 15. CarolA  |  August 31, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Where did you read that? I just checked the PARCC site for frequently asked questions and it said scratch paper is allowed. Perhaps that’s for special accommodations? Provide the “evidence” please. LOL

  • 16. Calculators  |  August 31, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    “Where did you read that?”

    As I said, I tried the eighth grade math test and there were separate calculator prohibited and permitted sections. If you try the test, I imagine you will see the same thing. If you really must have “evidence”, you could also consult the PARCC calculator policy:

    Click to access PARCCApprovedCalculatorPolicy-July%202012.pdf

    But as I said, there really was nothing that would require a calculator, though I can see that scratch paper would be helpful though again probably not necessary.

  • 17. FirstGradeBound  |  August 31, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    @CarolA: It thrills me whenever I hear people, educators especially, speak so highly of neighborhood schools. Granted our child is only entering into 1st grade; however, we were pleasantly surprised with the level of instruction she received last year and her teacher this year has an amazing reputation. (As you know, so much of it comes down to the individual teacher.) Large class sizes that plague many of the popular CPS schools still concerns me. Overall, though, it’s reassuring to see firsthand that quality education is not only possible, but probable at many neighborhood schools.

    Carry on with the PARCC convo . . .

  • 18. cpsobsessed  |  August 31, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    @calculators: you say calculators/scracth paper nice but not necessary….you think all the problems are solvable in the head?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 19. cpsobsessed  |  August 31, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    I read it as either “use the parcc calculator” or “use a real calculator” for the certain sections. I assume the “no calculator” sections are also no scrap paper. Makes it hard to work it out (IMO).

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 20. Petrified of PARCC  |  August 31, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    My thoughts: 1) Children will have to scroll in two different places for each question. The reading passage requires scrolling separately from the question itself. This could be a problem if children aren’t trained in advance how to do it. Some children might use a mouse at home, but the school might use laptops with finger pads. Or vice-versa. If they read to the end of the passage and don’t realize there is another place to scroll down, they might think the passage is finished when it is not.

    2) There is a box in which to click and drag answers, but you can’t see the box and the answer options at the same time. Unless the child scrolls down, they will not even see the box. When they select answers, they must click and drag them downward past the bottom of the screen (confusing). They can’t see which answers they have already chosen and placed in the box at the same time as the options that are left.

    3) On the question with 3 correct answers, the test marks the answer as “completed” even if you choose only 2 answers.

    4) On the typing portion, it is very easy to accidentally select text and delete it. There is no “undo” button to get your text back.

    5) On the math test, there are two calcators, but the icons do not look like the calculator icons students are used to seeing on a PC, Mac or smart phone. On the 3rd grade math test, there is the option of choosing a scientific calculator. Why?? This is unnecessarily confusing.

    6) Students will need to learn to use the * symbol for multiply instead of the letter x.

  • 21. Calculators  |  August 31, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    “you say calculators/scracth paper nice but not necessary….you think all the problems are solvable in the head?”

    That was probably a bit of a flip comment. I went through the questions on the 8th grade test. They definitely are solvable in memory because I solved them that way but I can also certainly see that a lot of 8th graders would struggle without scratch paper. Partly it depends on what you’re used to. And partly it depends if you want the test to be assessing the ability to do calculations in your head. If that’s a skill you want to test, then I could see prohibiting scratch paper.

    I don’t mind scratch paper but I hate the use of calculators. The questions absolutely did not require the use of a calculator.

  • 22. cpsobsessed  |  August 31, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Ohhhh….they seemed much harder than that to me (but I’ve gone through a few grades now so I might be confused.) I’ll have to go thrugh again. So you’re saying the 6-8th grade tests should require NO calculator?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 23. Calculators  |  August 31, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    “So you’re saying the 6-8th grade tests should require NO calculator?”

    I’m generally opposed to the use of calculators. But even setting that aside, there weren’t any questions that required a lot of computation (which is good because you should be able to design questions that don’t require a lot of computation). Maybe there was a long division or two, but I would hope an eight grader knows how to do that.

  • 24. cpsobsessed  |  August 31, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Cmon – long division without calculator or scrap paper? I think that’s asking a lot of most adults to do in their head.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 25. Calculators  |  August 31, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    “Cmon – long division without calculator or scrap paper? I think that’s asking a lot of most adults to do in their head.”

    I’m not sure adults are better than eighth graders at long division. As I said I’m fine with scratch paper but using calculators defeats the point. Why even bother teaching long division if you can use a calculator.

  • 26. Family Friend  |  August 31, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    CarolA: Thanks for your thoughtful comments about Common Core. I, too, am excited about it, and I know it will take a lot of teachers like you to make it work. Betsy, why do you say Common Core is a disaster when it hasn’t even been rolled out? It will take years to KNOW whether it’s a success.

  • 27. cpsobsessed  |  August 31, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Sorry, I guess I meant “long division without scrap papers?!?” (ie – difficult to do in one’s head).

    Yes, there’d be little point in teaching it if everyone just used calculators, right? 🙂

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 28. CarolA  |  September 1, 2014 at 6:56 am

    I’m not a big fan of calculators either. I know it speeds up the process, but students tend to depend on them. “Back in the day” I had a job that required me to use a cash register. That’s back when the registers did NOT tell you how much change to give. We had to figure it out ourselves and then could NOT just give it back to the customer. We had to start at the amount they owed and “count the change back” to the amount they gave us to begin with as a double check. One day, during a storm, we lost electricity. The registers didn’t work. We opened them manually and had to do all the calculations on our own. Did you ever notice that a lot of people today would be lost if the register did not tell what change to give back? If the electricity went out these days, they would probably close the store down.

  • 29. CarolA  |  September 1, 2014 at 7:16 am

    I also know that Trader Joes used to give applicants a math test (no calculators allowed) when applying for a job. Not sure if that’s still the case of not, but….

  • 30. Tonya J  |  September 1, 2014 at 8:04 am

    “why do you say Common Core is a disaster when it hasn’t even been rolled out? It will take years to KNOW whether it’s a success.”

    Common core has been rolled out in several states already ranging anywhere from 1-3 years of usage of the standards. The standards can be review and CC tests are out there. As a result a handful of states have dropped out and others are pushing out implementation to later dates.

    Different kids learn better in different ways. Forcing standards, and in turn curriculum, based on the work of consultants with political connections on all public schools without regard to parents, teachers and local school board input is unconscionable.

    If you are excited about it, more power to you. However, our kids will be moving to private schools to avoid it (with the side benefit of not going hungry during lunch). Looking forward to competing against your kids for college and jobs! 😉

  • 31. CPS parent  |  September 1, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Aren’t private schools aligning with common core too?

    As for me, 0 tuition, supplement if need be with outside services. I don’t concern myself about the competition – flunking out of college can be done at both the private and public level. We plan on being the best that we can be…..where ever that takes us.

  • 32. CPS parent  |  September 1, 2014 at 9:36 am

    CarolA – Thank you! Love your posts. You are an inspiration.

  • 33. @30  |  September 1, 2014 at 11:07 am

    The way I look at it is the more years my kids can spend and excel (they’re gaining by leaps and bounds!) in public school, the more money we can invest in their education later. To me, the return on investment is higher during H.S. and college years. Besides, like CPS parent hinted, there are never any guarantees . . . in public, in private, in parochial, in life or otherwise. Good luck with that.

    (I don’t get the “going hungry during lunch” comment, though.)

  • 34. CLB  |  September 1, 2014 at 11:13 am


    @5 I’m with @7.

    I went through the practice tests for ELA PBA and math EOY. It is not clear that the math writers understand English, e.g., 3rd grade math item using “plot” to mean “click a single point.” Of course the ELA writers don’t understand English either. In the 4th grade ELA video-based question, the definition of “channel” is wrong, and the allegedly correct def. is not discernible from the video. Given this audio:

    I came here to watch the ponies swim and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t know the path that they would take so I was really surprised to see that they actually walk them across the very narrow part of the channel. And we thought that’s all there was gonna be. Then when they got back in the water and they actually swam to the pony-swim lane, it was phenomenal.

    is a “channel”:
    a) the edge of the beach
    b) the length of the river
    c) the route of the water
    d) the speed of the tide

    In 3rd ELA, the picture question for the pigs story is ambiguous. What the picture shows and what the test-writes want the picture to show are different. I’ve run this question past 8 adults and only 2 got both parts “correct” according to the PARCC answer key. The “find the evidence” questions for definitions are absurd. There is no way to infer the definition from the text in most cases, and so the “evidence” being sought is a guessing game.

    Some of the math questions have pointless drag-and-drop features. Why does a student have to drag-and-drop seven stars? Many of these computer features are gimmicks. There was a separate, sample math question that required a student to repetitively click 48 times on a 10×10 grid.

    According to a member of the State Testing Review Committee in early Aug, the pilot test results are still being processed because the PARCC team is not sure what constructs they actually measured in these multiple-construct items (e.g., comprehending the text v. interpreting the image; being able to calculate area v. able to count mouse-clicks on the screen).

  • 35. CarolA  |  September 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

    It’s great to know that the tests are still be reviewed. No one said they were perfect. Is any test? Positivity folks…..positivity. Maybe YOU can be part of the solution. We want students to be problem solvers, not create more problems. Let’s expect the same for ourselves. If PARCC has problems, help to solve them. Get involved. “Dig deeper” for change! 🙂

  • 36. walker  |  September 1, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    @CLB “click 48 times”

    I was about to say it and it’s a sample question (it should be the best one)! I went through Math 3-5 and I feel that the test makers tried to test deeper understanding but instead created excessively wordy questions.

    If you want to compare 2/10 and 17/100 do you really need to ask students to click 19 blocks in 2×5 and 10×10 grids? or do you really need to drag-and-drop beans in the farm question?

    By the way, it looks like students should type in their explanations. I’m not sure it’s going to be easy for them.

    I expect many good students will struggle to get through “wordy” cloud and slow-typing issues in Math.

  • 37. CarolA  |  September 1, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    @36 Not sure about that particular question or similar questions, but sometimes it’s not about “getting the right answer”, but knowing how you got there. Years ago we just memorized multiplication facts, but if you asked me what it meant, I couldn’t explain that 3 X 7 means the number 7, 3 times, which would be this: 3 X 7 = 7 + 7 + 7 . Knowing HOW to solve is more important than getting it right sometimes.

  • 38. CarolA  |  September 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    So I’m laughing while I’m thinking of the old saying……”Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. TEACH a man HOW to fish, he eats for a lifetime!” …or something like that. 🙂 Maybe the purpose of “clicking 48 times” is to see if they know HOW to compare…aka… What do the fractions mean?

  • 39. falconergrad  |  September 1, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Common Core for early childhood ed was apparently produced without any ECE educators:


  • 40. CLB  |  September 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    @37 Sorry but the PARCC has an answer key with what they claim are the right answers. It does not assess how the students reached their conclusion.

  • 41. cpsobsessed  |  September 29, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    New WashPost article about the alloted time for PARCC per student:

    Middle schoolers 8-10/11 hours to complete all testing.


  • 42. Cathy  |  February 27, 2015 at 3:05 am

    I have a 6th grader with NWEA math scores in the 99th percentile. He is reading far beyond his grade level, and has been at least reading at least 2-grade levels up since kindergarten. Just recently, his teacher approached us about a concern with his stagnant, actually declining, reading scores on the NWEA tests. Upon further investigation, his teacher is correct. For the last 4 tests (back to 2012), his scores have not improved, but actually slowly declined, with his 4th grade FALL score even higher than his 6th grade WINTER score. This obviously will impact him next year should the 7th grade still include NWEA in the SEHS process. Any advice? His grades have not suffered, so I am hesitant to put so much weight into this exam, but the problem is that CPS does put a heavy weight on these NWEA scores. Have we been neglectful by not noticing, and addressing, this sooner? Any suggestions on what to do going forward? Thank you in advance.

What do you think?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed




Blog Stats

  • 6,169,427 hits

%d bloggers like this: