Published: Thu Oct 28, 2010<As more than half the states in the country begin to agree on what makes a high school graduate ready for college or a career, Tennessee Tech University's Holly Anthony is playing a major role in how that group is putting student assessment to the test. >
For the first time, a consortium of 26 states that educate more than 31 million public K-12 students, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is working toward the development of common assessments for K-12 students. Tennessee, one of 11 governing states in the group, recently chose a four-member team to represent the voice of higher education in Tennessee and to engage in discussions about this next-generation assessment system.
Anthony, TTU associate professor of mathematics education, was chosen as the mathematics faculty member along with an English faculty member from Tennessee State University, the provost from East Tennessee State University and a member of the State Department of Education's Testing and Assessment division. She says the development of common K–12 assessments across the states is a breakthrough in measuring and comparing education outcomes across the nation.
"This is a big deal. It's the first time states have ever agreed to use a common assessment," Anthony said. "Others have previously defined what it means to be college or career ready, but states have not agreed on a single assessment or benchmark for determining in a concrete, quantifiable way whether a student was, in fact, college or career ready."
Through the Race to the Top grant competition, the U.S. Department of Education set aside $350 million for state consortia committed to a common assessment. Of that, PARCC received $170 million to develop an assessment system aligned with Common Core State Standards.
These core standards, adopted by more than two-thirds of the states, were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts, to define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in work force training programs.
Anthony says Tennessee, unlike some other states, has already implemented common core standards that move the focus from skill-driven testing to process-driven assessment.
"Assessment goes beyond traditional multiple-choice tests; it is based on testing a student's ability to process information, solve problems, and apply information," explained Anthony.
Nearly 200 two- and four-year higher education institutions committed to the partnership, but Anthony says there's plenty of work to be done before the new assessments will be ready for states to administer by the 2014-2015 school year.
Anthony says while the test is being developed and refined and standard scoring is determined, her role is to help inform institutions about the new tool and provide input from a higher education perspective.
"As a mathematics education professor, I'm excited about representing colleges and universities while also sharing my viewpoints on how the assessment will affect teachers and their students," Anthony said.
One dramatic change for the state's teachers will be a direct result of implementing the new PARCC assessment.
"The PARCC assessments will change the face of testing in K–12," Anthony said. "Students will no longer be tested only at the completion of a grade/course; instead, formative assessments will be administered throughout the year to help guide instruction and help students see where they are in the progression toward college and career readiness."
How will colleges and universities use the new assessment score? Participating states have agreed to use the college-ready achievement levels in mathematics and language arts as an indicator of students' readiness for entry-level, credit-bearing courses. PARCC will simply provide the benchmark for determining whether students need developmental/remedial coursework.
"The work of the PARCC committees is only beginning, and the vision for these assessments will undoubtedly evolve over the next three years, but I am ready for the challenge ahead," Anthony noted.
For more information about PARCC, visit www.achieve.org/PARCCsummary.