Between technological advances and changes in education theory, school is changing fast enough to make anybody’s head spin. One of the major changes is of course, the Common Core, and with that change come new formats of testing. If your school hasn’t already done so, it will likely soon replace its former tests with digital assessments that align with the Common Core.
Two consortiums are responsible for creating these tests: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
These tests are intended to evaluate more than just knowledge—they are also supposed to assess communication skills, critical thinking abilities, and creativity. Students will be asked to solve “real world math problems,” compare and contrast, and synthesize information from multiple sources. We have come a long way from the bubble sheets and number two pencils.
Traditionalists may not even recognize these tests as tests. They may look more like games, as the students will be completing them on computers, using headphones and microphones.
Teachers, parents, and the students themselves are getting ahead of the game and familiarizing themselves with this new type of testing, in part by familiarizing themselves with this equipment.
Students will perform best on the tests if they are already comfortable writing on computers. They will need to have mastered basic word processing skills, especially since the Common Core puts a specific emphasis on writing skills. Older students may also need to be familiar with spreadsheets and graphic representations of data.
If you are shopping for Common Core headphones, be aware that many students (and teachers) prefer headphones with built-in volume controls. Of course, each student will want to be able to adjust his or her volume. Yet, if students make these adjustments via the computer, they could easily accidentally exit the test.
Beyond the equipment, students can prepare for Common Core testing by practicing writing and by becoming familiar with different methods of research. For example, instead of the old-fashioned “read this paragraph” model, students may be asked to listen to a paragraph before answering questions.
All of this will require children to adapt in many different ways. Educators are fortunate that most students are highly adaptable. It will be a learning curve, but over time and with effort, students will likely appreciate this new high-tech trend in assessment.