Fordham Report CoverIn less than a month, the testing window for this year’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will open and schools will begin assessing students in grades 3 through 8 and in high school. There was some controversy surrounding last year’s PARCC assessment, and this year’s assessment is changing to address some of those issues—a single testing window, fewer testing modules, and shorter time required.

A new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute highlights two years of research into the new assessments being used by states to provide an independent, third-party review of the tests’ content, quality, and rigor. The researchers used the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Criteria for Procuring and Evaluating High-Quality Assessments as their benchmark, and focused on the end-of-year assessments in grades 5 and 8.

With regards to PARCC, the researchers found that the assessment was an excellent match in content and depth to the English/Language Arts standards and a good match to the math standards in both content and depth. The math assessment could be improved by increasing the focus on the major work in grade 5 and providing a few more easier problems in grade 8 to better assess the lower-performing students (because the grade 8 math PARCC assessment was found to have an uneven distribution of problems at all difficulty levels).

The researchers recommend that state policymakers make quality assessments a requirement. They note that while current assessments such as PARCC have room for improvement, weak assessments leave state leaders, educators, and families believing that their students are doing well when they are not