The spring 2015 testing window for PARCC extended from mid-February to mid-May. That’s a long time. Of course, schools were not required to administer exams throughout the full testing window—they could use as few or as many of the days within the window as they needed. But for students, parents, and educators, the three-month window probably made “testing season” feel unusually long and drawn out. (In contrast, Ohio’s old state exams were administered over the course of roughly one month.) It also meant that testing interrupted classroom instruction for more of the school year—and earlier.
The reason for the long testing window was fairly simple: The assessment system included two exams. The first, the “performance-based assessment” (PBA), was given in February–March, and the second— the “end-of-year assessment” (EOY)—was given in April–May. The PBAs focused on students’ application of knowledge and skills (e.g., solving multi-step problems, explaining mathematical reasoning), while the EOYs focused more on traditional assessment items like reading comprehension or straightforward multiple-choice math problems. See for yourself the differences in the sample PARCC exams.
But starting in spring 2016, PARCC will be administered in one thirty-day testing window, occurring in the traditional testing period of April–May. Importantly, while the earlier PBA testing window is erased, some of PARCC’s performance-based tasks will be preserved in next year’s summative exam.