Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Timeline for PARCC Implementation

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has announced a clear PARCC timeline! After two years of field testing, the state Commissioner will recommend whether to adopt the PARCC assessment as the state testing program.  As you can see in the timeline below, a final decision will be made in late fall of 2015.  The recommendation to slow down and reflect a bit more about Massachusetts' adoption timeline is a direct response to districts' recommendations. 

Feel free to look at the DESE Website for more information about the revised PARCC plan.

2013–2014 School Year


November 19, 2013:

Board votes on plan for two-year transition from MCAS to PARCC



Spring 2014:


PARCC field test administered in randomly selected Massachusetts schools/classrooms (and in 13 other states)

2014–2015 School Year



Early fall 2014:

Analysis of PARCC field-test data by Department staff

Late fall 2014:

Board receives update on PARCC field test and operational test that includes an assessment of whether PARCC is on track to be better than MCAS
Winter/spring 2014–2015:
Massachusetts schools administer first operational PARCC or MCAS assessments, pending Board approval of plan for districts to choose between the two; all grade 10 students will continue to take MCAS in order to qualify for the Competency Determination

2015–2016 School Year



Summer/early fall 2015:

Standard-setting for PARCC tests; analysis of operational data

Late fall 2015:

Board votes on full adoption of PARCC based on a determination of it being better than MCAS


Spring 2016:

Administration of PARCC operational tests for grades 3-8; grade 10 students will continue to take MCAS to qualify for the Competency Determination

For an excellent graphic that connects and embeds all of the PARCC initiatives, click on the link below:

Making Sense of PARCC

Thursday, November 21, 2013

'Teaching' the Mathematical Practices

The Standards for Mathematical Practices are the only math standards that span all the way from Pre-K through 12th grade.  The hope is that even adults in the workplace engage in these practices and procedures!  Although we expect that both kindergarteners and precalculus students reason abstractly, what the practices actually look like in the classroom range tremendously when it comes to both age and ability.  This week we are focusing on ways that mathematicians can engage with mathematics using the practices and how this might be explicitly taught and formatively assessed.

Looking for objectives that match with specific Mathematical Practices?  Look no further.  A group of Wisconsin educators created a two page document that summarizes the eight Mathematical Practices into kid friendly objectives.  Although the practices are skills that are developed over time, it is possible to breakdown these characteristics into smaller, more attainable goals. 

The practices can be extremely difficult to assess.  This matrix was developed by Leadership, Coaching and Mathematics (LCM) as a rubric that can place students into the initial, intermediate or advanced categories when it comes to the Mathematical Practices.  They have also broken down commonly used teaching strategies and lined them up with the Mathematical Practices.  This is a nice way to view what a teacher may already be doing in the classroom and match those strategies with the development of specific practices.

EDC is offering a course that will feature tools, resources and instructional routines that are designed to support students with learning disabilities to develop and use the Mathematical Practices. This course runs from February 26th-28th and focuses specifically on grades 4-8.  Participants will receive 2 graduate level credits and walk away with practical tools to use in the classroom.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Can Everyone Learn Math?

What do you say to a student, teacher, administrator or parent when they assert that specific students simply aren't capable of learning in the math classroom?  Why is it that math has the reputation of being a subject that students either understand or don't? Are the common core standards going to make students' math anxiety worse?  What are some strategies that teachers can use to help boost math confidence?  The three highlighted articles below address all of these ubiquitous questions and more.

'Is it True That Some People Just Can't do Math?'
Daniel T. Willingham is a psychologist at the University of Virginia.  In this editorial, Willingham uses science to prove that all students are fully capable of learning K-12 mathematics.

'The Stereotypes About Math That Hold Americans Back'
Jo Boaler is a passionate professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Education.  In this article, she clarifies how the math common core standards can improve students' confidence in the math classroom.

'The Biggest Lie Students Tell Me (and How to Turn It Around)'
José Vilson is an incredibly genuine writer who currently works as a math teacher and coach.  José offers four key strategies that teachers can use when students claim that they can't complete a task.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Technology in the Common Core Era

The Transition to Online Testing

Both PARCC and Smarter Balance are currently incorporating technology-enhanced questions within their online assessments.  This promises to completely change the way we test our students in the immediate future.  When is this transition being fully implemented?  Will the format of the online tests be different than the traditional pencil and paper approach?  Will we get to try out this new assessment tool prior to full implementation?  This article from Education Week answers all of these questions and more.  A must read for 21st Century teachers, coaches and administrators!

Online Practice

We now know that online exams are in our future, but we do not know how to prepare for this major shift. Looking for ways to practice using some online tools?  Assessments-The Next Generation has broken down the computer-based practice into grades 3-5, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12.  The website also includes sample assessment items as well as interactive resource sites.  All links are free but many require Flash or Java to operate.  Take some time to play around with these rich tools.