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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

PARCC Precision and Speed?

For the most part, the MCAS test was a multiple choice test. This meant that if a child knew how to do a problem, he/she would choose the right answer. As I looked over the PARCC practice test last night I noticed that there were many short answer calculation questions. That means students will have to gain solid precision when calculating large numbers. It also means that they will need to compute with speed since the test is timed.  MCAS was not a timed test.

I'm concerned about the need to calculate with precision when it comes to large numbers and I'm worried about the speed factor. I hope this doesn't penalize slow, careful students or students who have trouble keeping lots of numbers in their mind at once as they calculate. Later in life these students will use calculators for large number calculation and they'll check their work with the calculator multiple times.

The advantage of multiple choice answers for large calculations is that you could give a child a chance to recheck their calculations to find which answer was best. The advantage of an un-timed test is that students would have time to proceed carefully and they would also have the time needed to check their calculations with inverse operations.

We won't really know much about PARCC until our students take the test, but these are two areas I'll be thinking about as I prepare students for the test and scrutinize the value of the tests alone and as compared to our former State tests, MCAS.

We want to make sure that these tests test what is important to know with regard to process and content. I agree that students should be able to accurately use algorithms to successfully compute, yet I don't think students should be penalized heavily if they make small calculation errors when they don't have enough time to check all their answers or when the type of problem is one that they'll use a calculator for later in life.

What do you know or think about these PARCC Math test attributes?