PARCC Field Testing Comes To Arizona Schools

March 21, 2014

More than 100,000 Arizona elementary through high school students will be taking part in a field test for one of the assessments aligned with the Common Core education standards. Here, they are called Arizona College and Career Ready Standards.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC field testing starts next week and runs for about a month in more than 1,400 schools around the state.  Jennifer Liewer with the state Education Department said it is a pretty low-stakes situation for the kids taking the test.

"Students are not going to be rated or graded on how they do on this test. This really is about finding out if our systems work, as well as giving our students a chance to take a look at a next-generation test," Liewer said.

PARCC is one of a few tests that is aligned with the new math and English standards. The state Board of Education will ultimately pick one of them to replace AIMS. Students should start taking the new test next school year. Pearl Chang Esau, president and CEO of the education group Expect More Arizona, said the next few weeks should give schools a sense of how ready they are for whichever new test the state starts using next year.

"I don’t think the field test is a tool for assessing whether PARCC is the right test for Arizona. I think the field test is more of an opportunity for our schools to do a test run with transitioning to any new test, PARCC or any other test," Chang Esau said.

She said the state will pick a new assessment based on a number of factors, including whether the results are comparable across states and the ability to get results more quickly. Liewer said the new assessment will likely be a change for many students.

"Even if PARCC is not the new assessment that we go with, more than likely, this new assessment is going to be an online-based assessment," Liewer said. "And so, making sure that schools have the broadband available, have the resources available. This gives us a chance to ensure that infrastructure is there."

Liewer said the field test will also benefit the test developers, who can look at the results and make tweaks to questions based on how students answered them. She said the field test is voluntary and that not all classrooms in a participating school will take part.

There is also the issue of funding. Gov. Jan Brewer has asked for $13.5 million to implement the new assessment in the upcoming fiscal year. Lawmakers appear to be proposing less than that.

One of the districts that will be participating in the field testing is the Peoria Unified School District. Deputy Superintendent Heather Cruz said about 2,900 students across several grades will be taking PARCC starting April 22.