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Searching for Assessment Vendors

While administrators wait for more information about the Common Core assessments, PARCC and SBAC are developing them, including seeking vendors to write test questions.
Joseph Willhoft, executive director of the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium.

While administrators and teachers wait for more information about the Common Core assessments, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) are developing them, including seeking vendors to write test questions.

Both plan to release sample items to teachers and the public by mid-summer and then run pilot tests of sample items nationwide in 2013, according to J. Michael Shaughnessy, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. A trial run of the assessment process is planned during the 2013-2014 school year. “There will be opportunities for everyone to become acquainted with the variety of types of tasks and items that are planned for the 2014-2015 implementation time frame,” he says.

PARCC is expected to award a contract in April to multiple vendors to write half of its test items, then renew the contract to some of the vendors to design the rest of them. An “Item Development Invitation to Negotiate” that it issued in December laid the foundation for the major components of the PARCC assessment system, including mid-year, performance-based and end-of-year assessments. According to the document, students in grades 6 to 11 will take tests by computer, while children in grades 3 to 5 will use pencil and paper, because they might not yet know how to use computer keyboards.

Meanwhile, in a request for proposals it issued for a project to prepare items for pilot tests, SBAC estimated that a contract period covering the work would begin this month and end on Nov. 30, 2013. The SBAC and PARCC documents spell out roles for teachers to be involved in writing and reviewing the items. In addition, the Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin will develop prototype math assessment tasks under a contract with PARCC. And in early February,, a professional social and learning network for the education community, and ETA/Cuisenaire, which provides hands-on supplemental products, announced the launch of Implementing Common Core State Standards in Math, an online professional learning community to support educators.

Doug Sovde, senior advisor to PARCC, and Joseph Willhoft, SBAC’s executive director, are scheduled to discuss their progress at the annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in April in Philadelphia.

Shaughnessy says that states must choose to go with either the PARCC or the SBAC assessments.