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All about PARCC

FOR THE RECORD: This story included total testing times for New Mexico’s new federally mandated statewide exam as provided by Albuquerque Public Schools. The New Mexico Public Education Department noted the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career exams’ expected testing times, based on earlier field tests, are shorter than the total testing times provided by APS.

PED’s estimated testing times for PARCC are: Third grade — six hours, 25 minutes; fourth grade — nine hours, 45 minutes (includes science Standards Based Assessment); fifth grade — six hours, 45 minutes; sixth grade — seven hours, 25 minutes; seventh grade — 10 hours, 25 minutes (includes science SBA); eighth grade — seven hours, 25 minutes; ninth grade — seven hours, 30 minutes; 10th grade— seven hours, 30 minutes; 11th grade —10 hours, 30 minutes (includes science SBA).

Questions and Answers

Q. What is the PARCC?

A: PARCC is an acronym for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, which is the name of the consortium of states that includes New Mexico that created the PARCC exam.

The exam is designed to measure student knowledge of the Common Core standards, which cover reading, English and math. It is given to students in grades 3-11.

Q: How long is the PARCC?

A : The PARCC exam will be given to students during two testing periods. The first testing period begins Monday and runs through March 27. The second testing period begins April 13 and runs through May 8. Students will test only on a handful of days during the testing period.

New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the PARCC exam will require the same or less overall testing time than its predecessor, the Standards Based Assessment, depending on grade level.

PARCC is a timed test. Here are the total number of hours students could spend taking the PARCC exam – which include both testing sessions – according to a testing overview provided by Albuquerque Public Schools:

Grade 3: 12 hours.

Grade 4 : 14 hours.

Grade 5: 14 hours.

Grade 6 : 14.25 hours.

Grade 7 : 14.25 hours.

Grade 8 : 14.25 hours.

Grade 9 : 14.65 hours.

Grade 10 : 14.65 hours.

Grade 11 : 14.95 hours.

PED has grade level estimates of how long it will take students to complete the PARCC. The estimates are based on field tests of the PARCC that were given last spring in order to prepare for statewide implementation. The estimated times were calculated by taking the time it took 90 percent of students who took the field test to finish and then increasing that time by 50 percent. The estimates are:

Grade 3:: six hours, 25 minutes.

Grade 4 : nine hours, 45 minutes (includes time for science SBA).

Grade 5: : six hours, 45 minutes.

Grade 6: seven hours, 25 minutes.

Grade 7: 10 hours, 25 minutes (includes time for science SBA).

Grade 8: seven hours, 25 minutes.

Grade 9: seven hours, 30 minutes.

Grade 10: seven hours, 30 minutes.

Grade 11: 10 hours, 30 minutes (includes science SBA).

Q: Is PARCC taken on the computer?

A: Yes. This will be the first time New Mexico students will take a statewide exam on a computer. Not all students will take the test on a computer, however.

The state has allowed districts to offer a paper version of the test for up to 20 percent of its students. APS will use that option to give all third-grade students in the district a paper version of the test.

Q: How is the PARCC different from the SBA?

A : For starters, the SBA was a paper and pencil test. The PARCC exam also has more complicated test questions. Whereas the SBA was predominately a multiple-choice test, the PARCC will require students to write essays and answer short questions.

Q: What did the PARCC test cost?

A : There are several different costs associated with the test.

For example, the state will pay Pearson, the large education materials company, to administer the test. According to Skandera, New Mexico has a $6.2 million contract with Pearson to administer the test. That’s about 40 percent less than what the state was spending – $10 million – on the statewide test four years ago, she said.

Schools also had to upgrade their technology in preparation for the test. The Legislature provided a $5.2 million appropriation in 2014 to help districts with upgrades. School districts also spent their own money.

APS spent $3.7 million to add computers and improve its network, but many of the updates needed to be done regardless of the new test, said Paul Romero, the district’s chief technology officer.

“The upgrades needed to be done, and PARCC escalated the upgrades,” he said.

Q: Is PARCC required?

A: The federal government requires states to give an annual statewide test. This was first done under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It is also a requirement of the NCLB waivers, which most states, including New Mexico, have received. Individual states choose what tests they give.

The New Mexico Public Education Department chose to use the PARCC exam. New Mexico is one of 10 states and the District of Columbia that is giving the test this year. Some of the PARCC member states are not giving the exam this year.

Eighteen other states belong to the Smarter Balanced consortium, which has developed a different computerized test that is matched to the Common Core. Some states don’t belong to a consortium and have chosen to use other tests.

Q: Are students required to take the PARCC?

A: The PARCC is a federally and state mandated test. But some school districts like APS have allowed students to “opt-out” of the test.