I took a look at the new release of PARCC assessment items the other day and specifically spent some time thinking about the demands these prototypes represent and the contexts in which these demands will occur.
PARCC situates the assessments as "next generation, technology-based assessments" and makes these claims (here): Better standards require better tests – and the shifts in the standards call for critical advances in assessment quality. PARCC will develop custom items and tasks aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
In regards to the ELA/Literacy assessments, this means PARCC will include: Texts worth reading: The assessments will use authentic texts worthy of study instead of artificially produced or commissioned passages.
Questions worth answering: Sequences of questions that draw students into deeper encounters with texts will be the norm (as in an excellent classroom), rather than sets of random questions of varying quality.
This made me a bit uneasy, not because I don't want my son to read or engage, but rather because the language here reminded me of the discourse that typified the high school I attended several decades ago--years before the Internet. At that time information was thought to be scarce and a private school education was supposed to afford its students access to the coveted information (preferably ahead of others) and in doing so gain its clients entry into select colleges (where even scarcer info could be had). Yet even then a belief that there existed an agreed upon collection of 'texts worth reading' was being challenged. So too was the idea that a deeper encounter could be had devoid of person and context.
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